Gathering Mistletoe on the Upper Little River - by Forrest Altman

Join DRBA on the Upper Little River, a tributary of the Cape Fear River, in search of luscious Mistletoe sprigs.

Again this year I’ll be bringing my sprigs home and making them into saleable bouquets for sale to benefit recreation planning in Caswell County. If you come along and get more luscious boughs full of big fat light-gray berries than you can use, drop them in MY bag, please.

Bring a long pole for grappling or pruning the sprigs. No shotguns required or encouraged. The technique that works best is to launch a tandem canoe and have the bow person hold to the bank or something stable while the stern paddler wields the pole or tree pruner. Please be cognizant of this reality: if the sprig drops into the water instead of in someone’s boat, it sinks rapidly; and leaning out of the boat to retrieve the sprig could result in more than a wet arm. Boaters have been known to swim involuntarily reaching so far that they upset the boat. That’s why we try to “thwart,” gather a number of boats side by side to form a platform. I’ve seen some fancy catches by boaters so that the sprig doesn’t land in the water or form an unusually fancy decoration on someone’s toboggan.

In all the years I have launched on the Upper or Lower Little Rivers in December, I do not recall ever being inordinately frigid. Often it is sunny enough to cause shedding of extra layers of wool or polypropylene. Believe it or not.

I’ll try to remember to bring along and give to anyone who wishes to have them boughs pruned annually from my “Dwarf Junipers,” which continue to threaten to become Giant Junipers. These boughs make lovely table or mantle decorations and make the whole house smell nice. Maybe I’ll even bring along some specially fragrant cedar branches to give away. Sometimes we come upon a holly tree down across the river. Then we take home some really beautiful decorations. So bring your hand pruner with a string and float attached in case it gets dropped in the water.

Doug Helms has agreed to coordinate this traditional holiday expedition. His e-mail address is

It surely will be wonderful to see you on the Upper Little River December 4.

Forrest Altman

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