My recent post about the new mistletoe-eating bird in Borneo reminded me of several other exotic (to us in Britain) mistletoe stories. One particular story from last year came to mind – a project in New Zealand where local residents were being given mistletoe seeds in an effort to re-establish local mistletoe species.
The project, based in Christchurch, involved the collection of seeds by local ecologists and then the doling out of 20 seeds each to local volunteers, for them to plant onto suitable hosts, especially in gardens. Participants were asked to monitor their seeds to assess success, or failure.
It’s a curious concept – but one which has echoes over here – I’ve worked with many UK conservation groups trying to get mistletoe established in parks and nature reserves –mainly in the east of England, where our mistletoe is relatively uncommon. Including some very well-known parks and a few palace gardens. And of course I’ve been involved in garden mistletoe plantings for many years, both directly and through provision of mistletoe grow-kits online.
The trick, which will probably apply to NZ as well as UK mistletoe, is to remember where (i.e which branch, and whereabouts on the branch) you planted the seeds and to be patient, as initial growth is slow and it may be several years before you get a growth of any size. I’ve lost count of the number of people who write to me, several years after planting, saying they are astonished to find their mistletoe is growing – they assumed, because they had overlooked the initial small growths, that they had failed, but actually they’d been very successful.
I’m not sure how quickly those NZ species grow – but having looked up the story again I see that 2018 was the second year of the project – I wonder whether that’s a reflection of the same problem, establishment after just one year is difficult to assess, so people try again. Although, on reading the news story published in 2018 it seems that 200 new plants had been recorded as established the year before, so perhaps those NZ species establish more quickly than ours!
The Christchurch project was led by Kristina Macdonald, an ecologist with Christchurch City Council – there’s a video with her explaining the project below. Note that she stresses the value of the plant for gardens – both as an attractive plant and as a resource for other species. For info on the original 2017 initiative click here and for the 2018 follow-up click here. As far as I’m aware this project is now completed.
You don’t have to be in NZ to grow mistletoe in your garden.