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The festive kissing tradition is being revived by hundreds of bunches of mistletoe at Cotehele House

By cg_ailsam  |  Posted: December 14, 2013

  • Kissing under the mistletoe

  • Picking the mistletoe- all pics by Steven Haywood

  • Picking the mistletoe- all pics by Steven Haywood

  • The mistletoe- all pics by Steven Haywood

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Hundreds of bunches of mistletoe are being picked at a grand house near Saltash to revive the kissing tradition during the festive season.

Work began at the beginning of December to pick the festive plant associated with kissing at Cotehele House, near Saltash.

Cotehele House is one of the few National Trust locations in the South West where mistletoe is thriving, according to the National Trust organisation.

Visitor Services officer, Tish Valva said: “We encourage everyone to revive the tradition of having a kiss under the mistletoe.

“It’s part of a tradition that brings people together to have a kiss.

“It’s been beautiful- we have had a fantastic crop this year and we have produced a lot of mistletoe, which is hanging from our Christmas garland.”

In the UK mistletoe has long been associated with Christmas and mid-winter customs.

Over the channel in France slightly different traditions evolved over time, with mistletoe seen as a good luck symbol at the New Year, rather than kissing at Christmas.

Cotehele House is an area historically famed for its apple and cherry orchards.

The old orchard, which dates from pre 1731, is full of character and mystery, while the Mother Orchard, which contains 300 trees and 120 apple varieties, was planted by the local community in 2007 to establish a gene pool of heritage varieties.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant which prefers the domestic apple tree as its host.

Data shows that mistletoe distribution is closely linked to that of lightly managed, traditional orchards, particularly in the most prolific mistletoe growing area of the South West and Midlands.

Mistletoe is commonly found on fruit trees where it is relatively easy to harvest but can also be seen on other host trees such lime, poplar and hawthorn across a wider area of the UK.

Mistletoe provides winter food for birds such as the blackcap and mistle thrush.

It also supports a total of six specialist insects including the scarce mistletoe marble moth, some sap-sucking bugs and the affectionately named, kiss me slow weevil.

National Trust Orchard officer at Cotehele Chris Groves, said: “Part of the essential conservation work we carry out at the property involves cutting it back and removing the distinctive mistletoe clumps.

“This work helps encourage a healthy growth of both male and female mistletoe and ensures the mistletoe doesn’t overwhelm the trees it’s growing on.

“Mistletoe benefits from management- unchecked, it will swamp its host tree and ultimately cause it to die.

“So we ensure we undertake regular, managed cropping making sure that the host tree remains productive while ensuring that a healthy population of mistletoe will persist.”

During December Cotehele House is selling the mistletoe and it can be seen on the Christmas Garland in the Great Hall.

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  • JeremyBadger  |  December 15 2013, 6:10PM

    Come on you Health and Safety freaks, are you not going to complain about the infection risks of kissing under a branch containing poisonous berries?

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