Alison Jane Harley

- botanical and floral artist -


30th November 2020

Another plant to take me away from the main purpose i.e. painting it.

I have never really loved mistletoe. I’m not sure whether it was just the ‘parasite’ label or whether it is the big unruly balls that can be seen nestling on the branches of their unwitting hosts. Last year, on my daily riverside walk, I collected quite a bit with the intention of painting something festive and in season…but it just didn’t grab me and it all curled and withered before I really looked at it.

This year, as it was making its appearance I announced that I would not be collecting or painting any.

Walking along the tree lined riverside last week, the same walk I take practically everyday – there it was – a blotch on the landscape, like hundreds of big galls. It was everywhere, even more prolific I think, than any other year. It was even bundling down on the lower branches – within easier reach than normal.

I do not know why – but despite my earlier announcement, I gathered some little cuttings with berries.

As soon as I got home I began measuring the leaves and berries – making colour matches and dissecting and was soon totally absorbed. Inside each berry was just one quite large seed. The fascinating thing though was the substance that surrounded it. It was like a transparent, very sticky glue.

Cut Mistletoe fruit (drupe)

Nature amazes me yet again. No wonder this parasitic plant thrives – once the birds have got this gunge on their beaks it is tremendously difficult to remove and the birds have to scrape their beaks on the branches to get rid of the sticky substance which in turn sticks to the branch and the seed is securely attached to the branch. I’m sure many already know this but for me to actually see and touch the insides of these berries really brings home the magic of nature. This was the first time I had really looked at this almost mythical plant to appreciate its pretty leaves and delicate, almost transparent berries.

I love Mistletoe…..

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