The festive season wouldn't be complete without a generous supply of strategically placed sprigs of mistletoe.

Within the past few decades the evergreen semi-parasitic plant, spread by birds and once at the edge of its range in southern Britain has spread widely.

In our area, Bushy park, Hampton court and Claremont are awash with mistletoe where its favoured host trees include hawthorn, oak, willow lime and apple.

Mistletoe growing on oak was considered sacred by the Druids and cut with a golden knife in a magic ritual.

Indeed, the ancient custom of kissing under mistletoe is derived from the Druid's fertility rites and a sprig of it was also deemed to ward of fairies and witches.

Nearly two thousand years ago, Pliny the elder believed that the plant also had the power of making barren women fertile.

Once safely established, mistletoe draws sap from its host tree but does not harm it. Each plant  is either male or female.

The tiny green flowers that open in early spring are wind pollinated and the soft white berries ripen in autumn, to be targeted mainly by mistlethrushes, hence its name, but other birds also relish them.

The photo shows a mistlethrush among the berries on a hawthorn in Bushy park.

May I take this opportunity of wishing all our readers the compliments of the season.