Mistletoe Could Vanish Within 20 Years. Then again, it could not.


Image credit: designatednaphour, used under Creative Commons license.

From the very rare Mexican walking fish to the most obnoxious bird in the world, there are so many species out there disappearing that it is easy to get a little numb to what we are losing. But news comes from the Guardian that one species many of us rely on at this time of year is likely to be much harder to come by within 20 years. Mistletoe, it seems, is going to be in short supply. The confusing thing is, however, that it is actually doing great right now—so what's up with that?The Guardian's Steven Morris reports that the UK's National Trust is warning that within 20 years mistletoe could become a hard-to-find commodity. The trouble is not necessarily that the plant, which is a parasite of trees, is nearing extinction right now—but that the habitats on which it relies, namely traditional cider orchards, are becoming less commonplace:

"Jonathan Briggs, an environmental consultant and a leading mistletoe expert, said: "Mistletoe is doing well right now. Those older orchards are probably yielding more mistletoe than they used to because it's not being controlled.

"But because the mistletoe is not being controlled, fast forward 10 or 20 years and the orchards won't be there. The mistletoe will accelerate the trees' deaths and it seems inevitable that we will have a shortage of mistletoe in 10 or 20 years."

Really, then, it seems the primary story is that traditional apple orchards are under threat—but mistletoe makes for a good news hook for a seasonal story from the National Trust. I guess the fact that I am writing about it means it works too...

Whether or not mistletoe disappears from the UK or not, I have always found a pint or three of good West Country cider to be absolutely central to a good Christmas, and quite helpful in getting the mistletoe to work its magic. So whichever way you slice it, we'd better save those orchards. (Let's not forget that mistletoe can be a great indicator of toxicity in soils too.)

More on Species and Habitats Under Threat
Mexican Walking Fish Nearing Extinction
Most Obnoxious Bird in the World has Nearly Vanished
Thousands of Undiscovered Plants Face Extinction

Tags: Agriculture | Biodiversity | Conservation | Farming | United Kingdom