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    Mistletoe – a delicious snack for birds in winter

    In Poland, mistletoe is food for wintering Bohemian waxwings and a shelter for species that start breeding early. Why is there more and more mistletoe on trees, and what role does it play in the ecosystem?

    According to the scientists from the University of Life Sciences in Poznań, mistletoe has been spreading faster and faster in recent decades. It takes over new species of trees, and becomes numerous in the agricultural and forest landscape, causing the concern of foresters and gardeners.

    Formerly, however, it was a rare plant. Over time, mistletoe, called the royal parasite, found its way to the ceilings of houses, becoming one of the symbols of Christmas.

    The relationships between mistletoe and birds are discussed by Prof. Piotr Tryjanowski, ornithologist from the Poznań University of Life Sciences.

    “Thanks to the food attractiveness, mistletoe spreads widely. The seeds germinate after passing through the digestive tract, and the sticky substance allows them to quickly attach to the trees when they leave the bird’s body with the droppings.”

    he explains.

    The Latin name of mistletoe viscum means as much as a birdlime. As reminded by Prof. Tryjanowski, in ancient Rome, a special glue was prepared from the sticky fruits of mistletoe and smeared on twigs to catch small birds in this way. This custom was also used by poachers many centuries later. For naturalists, however, mistletoe is more attractive than glue prepared from it.

    Mistletoe is not only bird food but also a place of shelter. The plant remains green even in winter and early spring.

    “Then mistletoe is most visible, even on poplars, but their interiors provide a convenient shelter and mask everything inside.”

    added Prof. Tryjanowski.

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