Know All About Mistletoe

The expression “out of sight, out of sense” could easily be applied to MISTLETOE, because it grows in the tops of the dense crowns of its host. Therefore, it is rare to see most of the year. But in the fall, after the trees have lost their leaves, this shrub periwinkle can easily be observed as it grows on the upper branches.

Here in the United States, our celebration comes from the European mistletoe (Viscum album), which is similar to the American MISTLETOE. In Norse mythology, a Norse goddess declared mistletoe sacred to symbolize love. This led to the Tradition of pecking under mistletoe.

In the 18th century, mistletoe was hung during feasts, and men stole peckes from women underneath. For every peck received, one berry was removed. When the berries disappeared, the peckes also disappeared. But beyond this timeless Tradition, I think most of us take for granted the backstory of this fascinating and very real plant.

It is also important in Druidic and Norse mythology. The Celtic Druids considered the plant sacred and used it as a symbol of fertility during ceremonies. They hung the plant over the windows and doors to repel evil.

Native Americans used the plant in different ways, including as a remedy for toothache, rheumatism and to treat wounds.

The common holiday mistletoe known as American (or oak) MISTLETOE (Phoradendron leucarpum) is harvested in the wild mainly from Oklahoma and Texas for sale during the holiday season, but in America it is native to about 26 states. The range extends from southern New York to Florida, west to New Mexico, and northeast to Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Ohio.

Often found in oak trees, mistletoe also grows on a variety of Deciduous Trees such as maple, Mountain maple, Hickory, beech, ash, elm, and pecan.

An evergreen semiparasite, it takes root under the bark of the host tree on branches and trunks and produces its own food by photosynthesis. But it receives water and nutrients thanks to modified roots that penetrate the bark of its host. Although the genus Phoradendron literally means “thief of the tree” and refers to the belief that mistletoe steals something from its host, mistletoe causes little damage to its host tree.

The word “MISTLETOE” comes from the Anglo-Saxon words for “manure” (“MISTLETOE”) and the word for “branch”(“tan”) which describes the origin of mistletoe during germination, where a bird leaves its feces. Berries are a favorite of thrush drains.

The sticky white fruit is toxic to humans, but it is desired by birds such as blackbirds, thrushes, bluebirds and cedar tails. Birds spread the seeds by eating the fruits and removing them with their feces and wiping the sticky pulp from their beaks on the branches where new plants begin to grow.

So here it is. More than you wanted to know about the gui. But now that you do this, you can use this timely and useful information the next time your holiday party conversation reaches that unpleasant moment of silence. We were all there. You can thank me after.

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