Some time during the first week of February two of the horizontal Poplar trunks at Thames Road Wetland were sawn up and almost completely removed from the site. Unfortunately one of these had had our only remaining Mistletoe on it, a plant that is uncommon in Bexley and scarce enough in the capital to merit its own London Species Action Plan.
There had originally been three Mistletoe plants on the tree. The female specimen died shortly before a series of major storms a few winters ago blew down several of the large trunks. The landowner, which in this case was not Bexley Council, chopped up others for ‘health and safety’ reasons, taking out a small Mistletoe of indeterminate sex in the process. Despite remaining only just about still attached to the base of the tree, the male Mistletoe’s trunk survived, after we carefully pruned back a fair amount of the leaf area in order to cut down its rate of water loss.
When the landowner did their work they left the cut material on-site. Given that the removed trunks were those nearest the road and small lay-by, were those closest to the ground, and were no more of a safety hazard than those left in situ, this looks very much like a theft for firewood.
Mistletoe is an obligate hemiparasite, partly dependent on the host plant to the extent that it cannot survive without it, so cannot be salvaged from cuttings.
I would be interested to hear from anyone who has Mistletoe berries at home from a plant that got there ‘naturally’ and wasn’t deliberately sown from Christmas material, so that I can try reintroducing it onto another trunk – hoping that this won’t eventually be stolen as well.
Meanwhile, of the Mistletoe plants I have found in the Borough, the next nearest is high on a Poplar by the Maiden Lane railway bridge, with others – also high up in Poplars – in Bexley Park Woods and in Holly Oak Wood Park. ‘Bexley Wildlife’ was also sent a photograph of an excellent display of Mistletoe on a tree in Appledore Crescent, Sidcup.
Chris Rose. Site Manager.