Yellow mistletoe? Or the Golden Bough?

At the mistletoe auctions this year I’ve overheard several people grumbling a bit about too much ‘yellow’ mistletoe, often comparing it unfavourably with French Mistletoe (which is ‘always yellow’ according to Tenbury lore).  This is, of course, entirely untrue, and should perhaps be described as a sort of Tenbury Wells Urban Legend.  It helps build the market for the English stuff you see…

In reality all northern European mistletoe goes a bit yellow around this time of the winter – it’s all Viscum album and it’s all green, and it’s all occasionally yellow too, wherever it grows.  Now normally I just let these comments pass me by, as they’re harmless (unless you’re trying to sell French mistletoe in Tenbury) and rather quaint.

But this year, some of the TEME mistletoe stock has been rejected by wholesale buyers – because it’s ‘yellow’ and their buyers won’t like it.  This is a new one on me, people actually rejecting the yellowy green stock, and I’m not sure how seriously to take it.  I harvested some of that material, and I thought it was rather spectacular – and some is always like this.  So just what is the problem?

Part of the problem may be the association of yellowish stock with the male plant – which tends to be the first to turn yellowy each season.  And the male plant has reduced value already – as it has no berries.  So maybe wholesalers reject yellow as they think it’ll have no berries.  But there are many truly stunning yellow-green female branches out there (trust me, I’ve seen them – but don’t have pics to upload yet – will look out for some) and they’re overwhelmed with berries.  Lovely stuff – beautiful material.  So why reject it?

Perhaps it’s the word ‘yellow’ – making people think the branches are off/old/dead/decaying?  But they’re not, they are perfectly healthy and very attractive.

My solution?  Rebranding…  Mistletoe is the Golden Bough of legend – and was probably called that because it was, er, yellow.  So let’s re-brand all the yellow mistletoe ‘golden’… 

Golden Mistletoe!
Get your Golden Mistletoe here.
The Genuine and Rare form that guided Aeneas and the Sybil to the Elysian Fields and allowed entry to the Underworld…

Sounds better already doesn’t it?  For more info on the Golden Bough, you’ll have to read Sir James George Frazer’s epic book on the subject.  You’ll find the abridged (1922) version online here.

3 thoughts on “Yellow mistletoe? Or the Golden Bough?

  1. I have some of this ‘golden mistletoe’ in my garden. As well as the more popular green stuff with the berries. Do you have much more information about this mistletoe? Is it a different variety? Is it something that’s worth pursuing?

    1. Hi, thanks for your comment and questions. As I hope I said in the blog, yellowy mistletoe is just ordinary Viscum album, but with leaves a little yellower than ‘normal’. But (as I hope I also said in the blog!) these yellowy plants are really just as ‘normal’ as greener ones. The yellow colour is just a characteristic of some mistletoe plants at some times. The same plant may be greener next season, or a green plant may be yellower next year. It’s all the same species and the colour does not indicate any different variety. Having said that there is more of tendancy for yellowy leaves in the male plants – and if you look at a tree with both sexes growing in it the yellower growths are often the males (also readily distinguishable of course because they have no berries).
      The point I was trying to make in the blog was that the belief that mistletoe might be the ‘golden bough’ of legend is probably linked to its tendancy to be a little yellowy. And that makes it a little ironic that yellower leaved plants are valued less for decoration today – as it could be argued they should, if the ‘golden bough’ legends were better-known and understood (which they aren’t), be considered more valuable. But this is unlikely to ever happen!

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