Apple trees and mistletoe

According to the Romans, nothing got the ancient Druids more excited than an opportunity to cut mistletoe out of an oak. On the whole, mistletoe does not grow on oak. I may have seen some once in about twenty years of keeping an eye out for it, and I didn’t have a camera, and it was winter so there were no leaves on the tree and I couldn’t get close enough to the tree to be entirely certain. In some ways that feels like a very workable metaphor for any kind of spiritual experience!

Mistletoe grows on all sorts of trees. In the area I live in, I’ve seen it on willows, and other trees, but the absolute favourite seems to be the apple. In the fat floodplain of the Severn, there are a lot of surviving old orchards, and a lot of non-fruit trees absolutely smothered in mistletoe at this time of year. Old apple trees have a bumpy bark, which of course gives the seed somewhere to lodge. Apple trees are attractive to birds, and birds are how mistletoe seeds generally find their way into tree bark, as birds clean their beaks. So it all makes plenty of sense.

One of the surprising mistletoe things I’ve recently learned is that, for reasons best known to itself, mistletoe does not like pear trees. I was in an old Severn-side orchard recently where all of the apple trees were covered in ‘the golden bough’ (which is of course green and alive, not golden and dead at the moment). There was one pear tree, and the pear tree had no mistletoe. The landowner was able to confirm that this is a thing.

Too much mistletoe does a tree no good at all, so taking from a well covered tree is in many ways a good thing. The mistletoe itself does not benefit from killing its host. If there isn’t a lot of mistletoe, make sure you leave plenty behind, or you’ll kill it. Resist the temptation to cut off a whole ball, unless there are a lot of other balls on the tree – generally taking no more than a third of anything is a good idea, and less if something is generally scarce.

Mistletoe Image taken from the Woodland trust website, which has an excellent page with lots of mistletoe information and more photos on it  –


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “Apple trees and mistletoe

  • Laura Perry

    Interesting…I didn’t know that about mistletoe. European mistletoe (Viscum album) and American mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum) are two different but related plants. Where I live in the southeastern U.S., mistletoe is common on oak trees. I wonder what that means in terms of how special the combination is — maybe mistletoe on apple trees is the rare thing here, to be prized?

  • Aurora J Stone

    I have a doctor’s appointment on Monday, and it will be when I harvest my bit of mistletoe from the bunch growing on the little tree at the outer edge of the car park. It gives me comfort that one of our traditional all heals is growing at our local surgery, I have asked permission to take me little bit, which I will use to try and seed in one of the apple trees in our garden.

  • Martina Ramsauer

    Thank you very much for this interesting post about mistletoe. People in the South of Switzerland collect it for Christmas. I will have to check for what kind of health problems it is used! All the best😀

  • taliesin2

    Reblogged this on The Crane Book of Wisdom and commented:
    An interesting post on mistletoe and the various trees it inhabits. And the one it doesn’t. Read on. Thanks to Nimue Brown for the post. 🙂

  • Christopher Blackwell

    We have a dwarf form of oak tree in our local mountains that always have a load of mistletoe on them, growing in a narrow canyon up in the Big Florida Mountains. I used to walk up there, but it is out of my range any more with the walker.

    • Nimue Brown

      I had no idea that was out there! Wonderful, although I know I would be deeply frustrated with that nearby and no means to visit…

      • Christopher Blackwell

        They are the only trees left on the mountains, at least the part that I have e explored. Desert mountains rarely have a lot of trees, but this narrow canyon funnels a fair amount of rain water to maintain them.

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