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Study says mistletoe is not in danger of dwindling

BE THANKFUL for small mercies - Britain is not running out of mistletoe. That small skinny plant with the milky white berries which before the concept of sexual harassment was invented provided an excuse for stealing a kiss from all and sundry is flourishing in its traditional haunts, according to a report.

A semi-parasite which favours apple trees as hosts, it was thought to be under threat because of the grubbing up of orchards. In fact it is on the increase, says the survey, conducted by Plantlife, the wild-plant conservation charity, and the Botanical Society of the British Isles.

The study found it distributed in a pattern similar to that in a 1970 survey - concentrated in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, with a broad scattering of sites across southern England, but few in Wales, the North or Scotland. Overall, there were more sightings than 30 years ago.

"Our aim was to see whether mistletoe had declined due to the loss of apple orchards but this does not appear to be the case and our fears for the future of this mystical, symbolic plant seem to have been unfounded," said Jonathan Briggs, who co-ordinated the survey and wrote the report.