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Biological Flora of Britain and Ireland: Viscum album

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This account presents information on all aspects of the biology of Viscum album L. (Mistletoe) that are relevant to understanding its ecological characteristics and behaviour. The main topics are presented within the standard framework of the Biological Flora of Britain and Ireland: distribution, habitat, communities, responses to biotic factors, responses to environment, structure and physiology, phenology, floral and seed characters, herbivores and disease, history, and conservation. Viscum album is a widespread obligate hemiparasite on a wide range of angiosperm and gymnosperm trees. Once thought to take just water and nutrients from its host via a haustorium, it is now suggested to also take carbon. Heavy infestations can reduce host vitality through prolific water use and carbon removal. Flowers are highly reduced but are primarily pollinated by flies, ants and bees. Seeds are dispersed by birds. Removal of the epicarp is necessary for successful seedling establishment, and seeds have a sticky viscin coat, adhering it to the host bark. Vegetative spread also happens under the bark of its host resulting in densities of >700 Mistletoe plants per host. Viscum album is a lowland species, most frequent in open human‐made habitats extending into woodlands in Europe. It has been widely planted for folklore use centred around Christmas. Despite conservation concerns following removal of Mistletoe‐laden old orchards, the species is thriving and needs control in some areas. Viscotoxins and lectins in leaves and shoots have been widely used in herbal medicine and now potentially in complementary cancer therapy.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 18, 2022
Online Publication Date Nov 30, 2022
Publication Date Nov 18, 2022
Journal Journal of Ecology
Print ISSN 0022-0477
Publisher Wiley
Volume 111
Issue 3
Pages 701-739
Keywords Plant Science, Ecology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Publisher URL


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