A new Viscum cruciatum plant (Mistletoe) was discovered recently in the garden, occupying   a branch of a Crataegus azarolus tree (a species of hawthorn) in the Mediterranean scrub plot.

Roi Chividali, the gardener who identified the plant, was delighted to find it after the species hadn’t been seen in the Garden for so long. V. cruciatum is a semi-parasitic plant. It has green leaves and therefore photosynthesizes, but it also attaches to a branch of a tree (or a shrub) and draws its water and minerals from the host. Its Hebrew name, olive mistletoe, was given to it because in southern Europe it is found mostly on olive trees. However, in Israel it can be seen on other tree or shrub species, such as almond, hawthorn, and Buckthorn (Rhamnus). The seeds of V. cruciatum were first brought to the Garden in 1975, sown directly onto several plants in the scrub plot, and one V. cruciatim became easily discernible on a large olive tree. However, it had not been seen in recent years and we feared that it no longer existed in the Garden. In 2013 fruit of this plant were collected from the Valley of the Cross area in Jerusalem and glued to the branches of three olive trees around the garden; but unfortunately this "infection" attempt didn't seem to work. V. cruciatum is naturally dispersed either by birds or when the sticky fruit fall from the mother plant and then adhere and germinate on the lower branches of the same tree or on adjacent trees. The first researcher to investigate the germination mechanism of V. cruciatum was Prof. Jacob Galil, the founder of the Botanical Garden, who discovered that germination of the seeds is very slow and occurs without the presence of water. Now that the plant has been re-discovered, it seems that even though they had not been visible in the Garden, at least some of them had survived and been dispersed via one of the known methods.

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