Mistletoe grows as a parasite on branches of trees.
It is commonly seen on apple but only rarely on oak trees.
Although Mistletoe can photosynthesise, they rely on the tree host for water and nutrients. At Monkton Nature Reserve we are following the first few years of the growth of a European Mistletoe (Viscum album) on an Apple Tree in our woodland.
Once the crushed seed is attached, it extends a green hypocotyl which bends towards the branch. It then flattens out and forms a sucker-shape which adheres to the tree branch.. (All through this first year or two of its life the plant is very susceptible to drying out or attack by birds. We keep the birds away by means of a wire netting cage
Once the plant has penetrated the branch it enteres a parasitic phase and a swelling begins under the tree bark, connecting to the living tissue of the host tree. This is called a haustorium, and grows with the tree, causing strange distortions in the branch.
The first shoots of the mistletoe appear at about the same time as the first spring shoots of the apple, but unlike them, they are evergreen.
The Monkton mistletoe plant is nurtured by Ron Bodiam.