A day out in London last week, at a conference discussing churchyard trees. Not about mistletoe. But a surprising number of mistletoe angles…
Starting with the journey there – as I caught the train in from Windsor (the conference was at Waterloo, an easy commute from Windsor) and Windsor is a mistletoe hotspot. Regular readers will, obviously(!), know this already as I mentioned it last year when reporting on a drive up the Thames valley.
But this was my first time on the railway from Windsor Riverside to Waterloo, and I was keen to find out what mistletoe could be spotted by train. ‘Training’ plants is a popular pastime with a few (somewhat dedicated) botanists; basically checking on what species you can spot by looking out of the window. It’s more interesting than it sounds, as railway corridors support a variety of species, with some unusual ones in the well-drained habitat amongst the gravel ballast next to the track. The challenge is to identify them whilst passing at speed…
But on this journey I was looking at the wider landscape, trying to spot mistletoe in the riverside trees (the line runs close to the Thames for much of the first section). Sure enough there were several sections with significant mistletoe colonies – and I, foolishly perhaps, decided to try recording them using a phone camera. Of course, by the time I had spotted a colony and got the phone pointing at it, we had moved on several hundred metres… And on the way back again in the evening it was dark.
Meanwhile, at the conference, churchyard trees and the challenges of managing them, were discussed at length. Presentations were made by a mixture of tree experts and clergy, with a general underlying theme that more could and should be done to manage, conserve and plant more churchyard trees, with a particular emphasis on seeing them as part of the individual church’s history. Indeed, in the case of many of our churchyard yew trees, the argument could be seen as the opposite; many of our older churchyard yews clearly pre-date their particular church’s foundation (some are 2000 years-old), so it is how the church relates to the tree, not the other way round.
Where does mistletoe fit in to this? Two ways – firstly as another, like yew, evergreen with a long history in tradition and religion, so it has relevance at least. Secondly, mistletoe loves churchyard trees – they are a perfect habitat, being well-spaced. The mix of native and exotic species often ensures at least one suitable host.
So was mistletoe mentioned? Er, no. Not at all! Apart from by me in conversations over coffee and lunch. But those discussions were useful, I think, highlighting the value of churchyard tree for mistletoe and the potential for mistletoe to be deliberately planted as part of a tree management project. It always becomes a talking point, particularly outside its main geographical area. Good for biodiversity too. And, last but not least, it has religious relevance.
Not necessarily the right religion – but that’s why it’s a talking point…
Mistletoe season looms… and if you want to grow your own talking point have a look at the Mistletoe Grow-Kits from the English Mistletoe Shop.
More Mistletoe Matters – links to mistletoey things to read, buy or do
Grow-Your-Own Mistletoe – kits and gift cards from the English Mistletoe Shop
A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter