Dormington is a good example of an orchard that is in need of mistletoe management. Many of the trees are over eighty years old and struggling to thrive under the weight of this parasitic plant. Trees can cope with small amounts of mistletoe, but unchecked it can swamp the tree and eventually threaten its survival.
Cutting and selling mistletoe prunings is a traditional method of controlling its impact. Orchard Origins has been harvesting mistletoe at Dormington to sell in the run up to Christmas.
Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant that is often found in cultivated apple trees. Oaks, limes, poplars and hawthorns are also common hosts. In many parts of the country mistletoe is quite scarce. Thanks to the abundance of traditional orchards in Herefordshire and its unique climate mistletoe continues to thrive here.
Mistletoes is now recognised to have important biodiversity value. According to Jonathan Briggs of Mistletoe Matters, there are six known insect species, such as the Mistletoe Marble Moth, that rely on this plant for their survival. In winter, this evergreen plant provides an important food source for a number of bird species and mammals that feed on the berries and shoots. The plant relies on the Mistle Thrush and Blackcap for seed dispersal.
Mistletoe has both male and female plants, but it is only the female that produces the distinctive white berries. Although only the boughs with berries are sold, it is important to prune the male plants as well as the female in order to maintain a balance of each sexual category. By cropping sustainably, it is possible to improve the health of the trees; retain a viable population of mistletoe and earn a small income.