Eco-crew and the pupils helping with the natural Christmas decorations with WildlifeKate this week, learnt all about Mistletoe, as she bought some in to sell at the Christmas Fayre.
Many of us would never have noticed Mistletoe growing in the wild, or know much about it, but at Christmas it appears as it is linked with Christmas traditions . Hung over a doorway, it is traditional to kiss under the mistletoe!
Mistletoe is a parasitic plant, that is, it actually lives off of another plant. In Britain the commonest host for mistletoe is cultivated (not wild) apple trees. But it also occurs on many other tree species, with other favourites including limes, poplars, and hawthorns. It burns its roots into the tree trunk or stem and takes advantage of the tree’s sap. Generally, it does not damage the tree, unless it takes over.
We took sprigs of the Mistletoe and strung it up with ribbon to sell….
WildlifeKate took some of the berries off and showed us something REALLY interesting! She told us to squeegee the berries in our fingers. We were amazed, as inside, there was a really gluey substance with a seed inside. It was like it was covered in Pritt stick!!
We got it stuck on our fingers and it was difficult to get off! The Mistletoe has evolved like this as it needs its seeds to stick onto the branches of trees where it will grow. If a bird eats the seed, it gets stuck on its beak, so it wipes its beak on a branch and effectively ‘plants’ the seed! If the bird eats the whole seed, then it passes through the bird’s body and emerges, still all sticky. The birds’ poo then drops and sticks onto the branches! The seed can then germinate and grow its roots deep into the tree. How clever is that?!
A Mistle Thrush is so named as it is said that they like to eat these berries and they will often ‘guard’ a clump of mistletoe from other birds who might want to eat them!
We were fascinated by the Mistletoe berries and all had to touch and hold then so we could see how effective it was for ourselves!! Nature is truly amazing!