Lindow Manchester

More on Mistletoe

Just had a phone call from Anna Bunney, Curator of Public Programmes at the Manchester Museum, asking for a picture of the mistletoe pollen from Lindow Man’s stomach. Anna said Lindsey in the Herbarium (the Manchester Museum is one of the few museums still to maintain a Herbarium with dedicated staff) had written an information sheet on mistletoe, which I’ll add to the blog. We seem to have been getting quite a few hits on this subject recently. This is what Lindsey wrote:-

More than any of the evergreens, the mistletoe has inspired fascination throughout history. Held in esteem for its medicinal and magical properties. Many traditions and customs have arisen from the beliefs in the power of the mistletoe, but the kissing origins remain obscure.  Druids used the plant as an aphrodisiac and in Scandinavian tales it symbolises peace and love.

Until the arrival of Christmas trees, the kissing bough held centre stage at Christmas when a berry was plucked with each kiss until none were left.


Sprig of replica mistletoe as used in "The Verdict" schools session about Lindow Man

Sprig of replica mistletoe as used in “The Verdict” schools session about Lindow Man

Viscum album is the most common mistletoe in Europe. In Britain it can be found in southern areas of England and Wales. It’s a parasitic evergreen shrub that grows high up in the branches of old trees. The plant extracts its essential mineral nutrients and water by sending out roots into the bark of the tree it grows on. The most popular host is the apple tree, although it is not unusual to find it growing in lime, ash, hawthorn and other trees with soft bark. With the gradual decline of the apple industry in England it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find home-grown mistletoe. Most of the mistletoe in shops comes from Brittany or Normandy in France.

mistletoe from Aymestrey gathered Christmas 1883 from the Mancheter Museum Herbarium collection (Em 482884)

The real stuff: mistletoe from Aymestrey gathered Christmas 1883 from the Manchester Museum Herbarium collection (Em 482884)


2 Comments so far
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I’ve asked Lindsey for a copy of the photo she put in her information sheet for Anna. As this may take a little time because of the holidays can anyone send me a photo of a mistletoe plant on a tree that I could add to the blog please? I will acknowledge the sender of any we use. Thanks. B.

Comment by bryansitch

I was told that Alderman Fletcher Moss had mistletoe ‘planted’ on the old apple tree in his Parsonage Garden in Didsbury. this tree is now gone but the mistletoe has taken root in a number of trees in the Fletcher Moss Gardens, too high to have been placed, so it will grow in the area. How common is it in the general area of South Manchester? What do the pollen records show from the time of Lindow Man’s Death? If it was as rare then as now, how did its pollen come to be in his final meal? The Golden Bough may yet have a say in this tale.

Comment by joe walsh

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