How to Forage for Mistletoe

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Mistletoe is a winter symbol for renewal as it stays green through the dark, cold months of winter and produces its berries at this time.

Mistletoe is popular for decorating the house at Christmas time and also has a kissing custom/myth of good luck attached to it.

Many florists and stores will sell fresh mistletoe in December, but what if you could find your own during a charming ramble in the countryside this winter.

So grab your basket and go foraging for mistletoe this winter. Here are some tips on how to forage for mistletoe. Just don’t forget the number one rule of foraging, don’t pick without the landowner’s permission, and only take what you need and leave the rest for birds and insects to feed on.

Also, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Mistletoe.

Forage for mistletoe
Forage for mistletoe

What is mistletoe?

Mistletoe is an evergreen plant. It has forked branches and pairs of symmetrical leaves. During winter it produces white berries which are not only synonymous with the plant we bring indoors to decorate but also a favourite of birds to feast on when the temperatures drop.

Mistletoe is parasitic which means it grows on a host plant and derives some of its food from that other plant. Mostly it is found growing on the branches of trees.

There are around 900 species of mistletoe around the world. In the UK we have just one species, the European Mistletoe (Viscum Album).

Is mistletoe toxic?

The leaves and berries of mistletoe are poisonous if consumed. Keep out of reach of children and pets.

Where does mistletoe grow?

Mistletoe can be found growing on host trees such as hawthorn, poplar, lime, willow, blackthorn, and apple. In the UK the most common host plant for mistletoe is the apple tree.

Generally, mistletoe prefers open spaces with lots of light so gardens, parkland, and orchards are preferable to woodland.

Where in the UK can you find mistletoe?

It is most commonly found in the South of England, West Midlands and Wales. There are concentrations of mistletoe in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Gwent.

There are some spots of mistletoe scattered elsewhere England but it is not usually found in eastern or northern England or Scotland.

Is it illegal to pick mistletoe in the UK?

Do not gather mistletoe without permission from the landowner.

Mistletoe is covered by the same protection as all other wild plants in the UK through the ‘Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981, as amended)‘. Therefore, it may not be uprooted (which would include pulling down whole plants) without the permission of the landowner.

Where to find mistletoe
Where to find mistletoe

How do you identify mistletoe?

Mistletoe grows in rounded clumps on the branches of trees. Look for plants with green foliage and ripe white berries, which should be plump rather than withered.

How long does mistletoe last?

Mistletoe generally will keep for 2 to 3 weeks after picking if it is kept in a cool, dry place like a shed.

Where to buy mistletoe in the UK?

Many garden centres and plant nurseries around the UK sell mistletoe. There is also an annual mistletoe festival in Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire. There you can buy in bulk at a wholesale auction.

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Forage for mistletoe