Mistletoe in Britain – a review paper

BIBpaperimageAlmost the end of January, so it will soon be mistletoe flowering season and, of course, mistletoe seed germination season. That’s one of the many odd things about mistletoe – it flowers and germinates in late winter, the season when most plants are merely beginning to plan such energetic activities.

If you’re interested in reading more about this and other odd mistletoe stuff there’s a new review, published just a month ago, in the journal British & Irish Botany.  It is, as the author (me) says in the opening paragraphs, “by no means an exhaustive review”.  In other words a lot more could be said, but the paper gives, I hope, a reasonable overview of the concepts and issues. It certainly covers a lot of ground and took a while to compile.

There will be, within a few months, another mistletoe review paper in the Journal of Ecology, as part of the Biological Flora of the British Isles series.  More about that one – a collaborative paper – when it’s ready.

Are there Nargles in your mistletoe?

nargle1If you’re worried about Nargles in your mistletoe then you’ve probably been reading too much Harry Potter, for that’s the only world where they occur. If indeed they occur at all.

Even in the Potter world the only evidence of their existence is from Luna Lovegood, a fellow Hogwarts student, who suggests they are mischievous beings who steal things. And often live in mistletoe.

Her mistletoe remarks are made in Chapter 21 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry is discovered alone in a roomful of Christmas decorations by Luna.  She points out he is standing under some mistletoe. As he hastily retreats she suggests that he’s wise to do so as ‘it’s often infested with Nargles’. Harry has never heard of Nargles but doesn’t admit this.

Three pages later he’s in the same spot, but this time alone with Cho Chang, a young lady who has made it clear she, er, likes him. She, like Luna, mentions that he’s standing under the mistletoe. Harry warns her that ‘it’s probably full of Nargles’ but admits to her he has no idea what Nargles are. This time he doesn’t retreat, throws caution to the wind and kisses Cho, despite the risk of Nargles. [the film version is on Youtube here]

But what is a Nargle? No-one seems to know – they’re never explained and the implication, from other remarks, is that they are either non-existent (i.e. made up by Luna) or extinct or, possibly, just very elusive. In some of the (many) analyses of J K Rowling’s storylines online there are suggestions that maybe Luna made them up to avoid awkward situations – such as meeting Harry Potter under the mistletoe.

So that’s all clear. Nargles are possibly a fictional invention of a fictional character in a fictional world. But if they did exist, in the fictional world, they would infest mistletoe and steal things.

Nothing to worry about really. You’re far more likely to have one of the UK’s six mistletoe insects in your mistletoe. Of which my favourite is the Mistletoe Weevil Ixapion variegatum. Perhaps these are Nargles – they always look fairly mischievous to me.  Though, being only a few millimetres long, it’s difficult to imagine them stealing much:

nargle2

Mistletoe sales – a measure of economic recovery?

US economic news organisation Marketplace visited the Tenbury Well Mistletoe Auctions a week or so ago, for a radio broadcast discussing whether mistletoe sales reflect post-covid economic recovery here in the UK. The general feeling at the auctions was upbeat, which is great – though bear in mind this was recorded just before the Omicron variant hit the news.

marketplace1Marketplace’s UK reporter Stephen Beard presents the piece, interviewing auctioneer Nick Champion, Festival organiser Diann Dowell and several buyers. Plus myself, pictured on their website with mistletoe in the back garden here in Gloucestershire.

It’s only a short piece, just over 4 minutes long, and well worth a listen – direct link to it is https://www.marketplace.org/2021/12/13/will-brits-embrace-economic-recovery-under-the-mistletoe-this-christmas/

If you’re curious about who Marketplace are (I certainly was) you can find out more on their website – they are a public service broadcaster with a mission to improve economic knowledge through accessible radio journalism. They say they have

“the most widely consumed business and economic news programs in the country. With more than 14 million weekly listeners on more than 800 local public radio stations nationwide and millions more across our digital platforms, we’ve changed the way people think about the economy.”

So probably worth bookmarking their website (or setting your smartspeaker) for more than the occasional mistletoe story.

Mistletoe at Longney, plus a wannabe Road Runner pheasant

LOngney121221aA quick wander round the orchards at Longney, south of Gloucester, today. These are the orchards managed by the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust – two old surviving orchards, called Long Tyning and Bollow and two newly planted orchards called, less excitingly, Middle and Lower. All adjoining the upper reaches of the tidal Severn.

Today was primarily to see how the mistletoe there is faring – and what management might be needed this winter.

LOngney121221bBeautiful weather, unseasonably mild and with a bit of sun now and then, so no need to dress up warm. There were lots of small growths of mistletoe here and there, much of it showing a good crop of berries, not too much of it and not too little. Just the balance we need – though there will be some pruning in the next couple of months.

In Bollow, the part nearest the river, I was ambushed, as usual, by the sheep who surrounded me as soon as I appeared. Perhaps to say hello but more likely hoping I had brought food. I hadn’t so they were, as usual, disappointed.

LOngney121221cThe next event was more unusual – the sheep were joined by a cock pheasant, behaving as if he was the leader of the gang, vociferously clucking at me all the time. Odd, but just one of those things – or so I thought at first…

LOngney121221fThat pheasant then never left my side for the next 20 minutes, trotting at my heel like a dog, but occasionally lunging at me. Was he hungry or was he being aggressive? He was certainly persistent. If I ran he ran, big wide steps reminiscent of Road Runner but without the Beep Beep. Did he think I was Wile E. Coyote? I tried faux swerves through the trees to shake him off but he always caught up, sometimes even got ahead. Very odd. I do hope no one was watching.

LOngney121221dHe was so persistent and, at times, so threatening (that beak looked sharp!) that I abandoned my plan to investigate the partially fallen mistletoe-laden riverside poplar, for which I would need to crouch down. I wasn’t letting that beak anywhere near my head!

I finally shook him off by returning to the barn in the middle of the orchards and fooling him into a corner where he couldn’t follow easily because of a netting fence.

I never did find out what he wanted – but maybe it was just a peck on the cheek under the mistletoe?


Grow your own peck on the cheek with Mistletoe Grow-Kit from the English Mistletoe Shop.

The tip-jar (new for 2021, not quite sure about this!)

Mistletoe Diary is, of course, free. But every little helps support my miscellaneous missions minimising mistletoe misunderstandings.

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Happy National Mistletoe Day!

berriesAs all mistletoe enthusiasts should know, today,  1st December, is National Mistletoe Day, first announced way back in 2005.  That was when it was put forward, after representations by myself and other members of the original Tenbury English Mistletoe Enterprise team, in an Early Day Motion in the UK Parliament.

It was never taken any further than that at parliamentary level, so perhaps has no formal status. But no-one actually objected, so that was good enough for us.  And 17 MPs signed it.  Which isn’t too shabby.

EDM

gasmaskmistletoephotoI do hope everyone is celebrating in a suitable way, albeit through masks.

If you want to read the whole EDM – and see the full list of signatories – click here:  https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/29136


No Mistletoe Day is complete without mistletoe.  If you want your own supply in future years you need a Mistletoe Grow-Kit!  Available from the English Mistletoe Shop website at englishmistletoeshop.co.uk

And for more general mistletoe Information visit the Mistletoe Pages website.

Mistletoe Auction Time

trading6The first Mistletoe Auction of the year takes place tomorrow morning, which to many means the proper start of the mistletoe season.

The auctions are run by Nick Champion and are held at at Burford House Garden Centre, Burford, Tenbury Wells, WR15 8HQ.  Details on Nick’s website nickchampion.co.uk but shortcut for buyers is nickchampion.co.uk/site/assets/files/1015/buyers_information_2021.pdf and for sellers (too late for tomorrow now but there’s another next week!) is nickchampion.co.uk/site/assets/files/1015/sellers_information_2021.pdf.

IMG_20211122_145853The berries are already nice and white – and  there’ll be more mistletoe news here soon.