Another curious reporter visits KissMe HQ
Posted: Dec 12 2013
Over the next week, buyers will travel hundreds of miles to get their hands on mistletoe, the parasitic plant responsible for many a romantic Christmas liaison. But how did one market town become the UK's trading centre for the festive foliage?
Tenbury Wells sits alongside the River Teme where Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire meet - the three counties, experts say, which provide some of the best growing grounds for mistletoe.
The plant loves fruit trees to attach itself to, and the large number of orchards in Herefordshire and Worcestershire were thought to play a large part in the abundance of mistletoe in the area.
Mark Adams, an arable and livestock farmer from Eastham, about five miles outside Tenbury, gets extra profits from the mistletoe his farm attracts and sells it online.
"The money from mistletoe is negligible really," he said.
"You couldn't survive on it, no way.
"But it's growing there and you may as well take advantage of that."
Wholesale, he charges £35 for 50 sprigs (about 3.5kg or 7lb 11oz), going up to £215 for 450 sprigs (about 30kg or 5st).
Individual customers pay about £8.45 for 10 sprigs.
John Smith has gone to the auction since he was a young boy, when he helped his grandfather.
Victorians popularised the tradition of kissing under mistletoe "You see the same people here year after year," he said.
"There are a couple of old ladies, sisters, who've been coming up from Carmarthenshire for more years than I can remember."
'Romance sells'Every year Lottie Foster drives for four hours from Brighton with a seven-tonne lorry.
She bulk-buys the plant and then sells it on at London's Covent Garden.
"I make it up into little bunches and put a ribbon on and sell it mainly to young courting couples - I can sell a little bunch like that for a fiver," she said.
"I may sound cynical, but romance brings in some good money.
"Romance sells, and the only place to buy it is here. It's the mistletoe capital of Britain."