8 December 2000

Mistletoe given the kiss of protection in London

MISTLETOE is to become a protected plant in London. It will be included, with other plants and animals, in a local bio-diversity action plan for the capital to be published in the New Year.

The plant is found in gardens, parks and even the streets of the capital. It is living on a maple in Lambeth Walk and can be found in Richmond Park and the grounds of Hampton Court Palace.

It is believed this is the first time the parasitic plant has been given protection but it shouldnt affect the Christmas kissing tradition according to conservationist Jonathan Briggs, who has compiled a national survey of its distribution. It wont be illegal to take a sprig for the office party.

"It will only be protected in a broad, policy sense, not a legal one. You have to prune a plant like mistletoe, anyway, or it would eventually kill itself and its host. The aim is to find out where it is and conserve it."

In his report for Plantlife, aimed at discovering whether it is in decline, Jonathan says fears for its future seem unfounded. It is doing well in many areas and habitats. It is heavily concentrated in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Somerset, with scatterings across the rest of central and southern England but few in the north and west.

TM