19/12/2011 05:51 GMT

British Mistletoe 'In Danger Of Disappearing' Claims National Trust

Mistletoe, one of our most cherished Christmas decorations, is in danger of disappearing over the next 20 years, according to the National Trust.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows attached to and within trees and shrubs. In Britain its traditional 'heartland' is cider country - Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

But traditional apple orchards have been disappearing since the 1950s, the National Trust says, and they have been taking the festive plant's preferred habitat with them.

Now the Trust is encouraging people to give mistletoe the kiss of life by buying sustainably sourced home-grown mistletoe.

Peter Brash, a National Trust Ecologist, said that losing mistletoe would be a shame for the UK economy:

"We could end up relying on imports of mistletoe from mainland Europe for those festive kisses," Brash said.

The use of mistletoe as a Christmas decoration is thought to date back to pagan times, when evergreens were revered as a symbol of ongoing life during harsh winter months.