Plantwatch: holly, ivy and how warmer weather boosts Christmas plants

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The holly and ivy decorations should be looking lush this Christmas thanks to climate change boosting the growth of these plants.

In a study 15 years ago, holly was found spreading further north in Europe than ever before. The plant had pushed northwards by 80 miles (130km) in more than 60 years and was seen in Norway and Sweden where it was being used for Christmas decorations for the first time.

Ivy is also becoming more widespread across forests in Europe. In just over 80 years it has spread across more areas of forests, with rising temperatures the key factor. But there is a problem with the rampant growth of both holly and ivy in woodlands, because these evergreens can easily smother and outcompete other plants in the habitat, such as primroses and violets.

Mistletoe, though, is struggling with the changing climate, as milder winters rob it of the cold weather in winter it needs to help sprout its seeds the following spring. A study in 2005 found that the pine mistletoe in the Swiss Alps had been forced to climb about 200 metres up mountainsides in 100 years to find cooler conditions, and was expected to climb a further 350 metres up the slopes by 2030.

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