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Monday, 20 December, 1999, 00:47 GMT
Christmas kiss saved as mistletoe thrives

Good news for the Christmas kiss

Fears that the Christmas tradition of kissing under the mistletoe could be lost because of the decline of the mistletoe plant have proved unfounded.

The first survey of the plant in the UK for 30 years shows it is in fact thriving.

Our fears for the future of this mystical, symbolic plant seem to have been unfounded
Report author Jonathan Briggs
It has been commonly accepted that mistletoe was in decline because most of it used to grow in apple orchards, many of which have disappeared since the 1970s.

But a survey carried out by the charity Plantlife and the Botanical Society of the British Isles has found that the plant has adapted to grow in different habitats.

Earlier this year, there were fears that supply problems would wreck havoc with Christmas orders for the traditional plant.

Whereas it used to be found mainly in the West Midlands and central England, there are now more colonies growing in the south of England. And increasingly it is clinging to lime trees and even rose bushes.

Mistletoe is more than just a Christmas favourite - it has medicinal properties which are increasingly being used to treat cancer.

Supply still a problem

Jonathan Briggs, co-ordinator of the survey and the report's author, said: "Our aim was to see whether mistletoe had declined due to the loss of apple orchards.

"But this does not appear to be the case and our fears for the future of this mystical, symbolic plant seem to have been unfounded.

"This is good news, but we must not be complacent. Mistletoe supplies for Christmas are still under threat following the loss of traditional apple orchards and unsustainable harvesting.

"Should demand ever outstrip supply, mistletoe could be in crisis."

While the counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire had the greatest concentration of mistletoe, large quantities were reported in Somerset, with a scattering of sightings across the rest of central, southern and eastern England, the report said.

The most likely places to spot the distinctive plant were public or private gardens, with orchards and parks ranking second and third place.

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See also:
20 Dec 99 |  UK
New light on old Christmas traditions
16 Sep 99 |  Sheffield 99
Plants may be just the tonic

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