mistletoe normally looks like this
used in pretty christmas decorations but it's a parasitic plant that's pretty disgusting--
Mistletoe plants grow on a wide range of host trees, and commonly reduce their growth but can kill them with heavy infestation. Viscum album can parasitise more than 200 tree and shrub species. All mistletoes are hemi-parasites, bearing evergreen leaves that do some photosynthesis, and using the host mainly for water and mineral nutrients. However, the mistletoe first sprouts from bird feces on the trunk of the tree and in its early stages of life it takes nutrients from this source. Species more or less completely parasitic include the leafless quintral, Tristerix aphyllus, which lives deep inside the sugar-transporting tissue of a spiny cactus, appearing only to show its tubular red flowers, and the genus Arceuthobium (dwarf mistletoe; Santalaceae) which has reduced photosynthesis; as an adult, it manufactures only a small proportion of the sugars it needs from its own photosythesis but as a seedling it actively photosynthesizes until a connection to the host is established.
Some species of the largest family, Loranthaceae, have small, insect-pollinated flowers (as with Santalaceae), but others have spectacularly showy, large, bird-pollinated flowers.
Most mistletoe seeds are spread by birds, such as the Mistle Thrush in Europe, the Phainopepla in southwestern North America, and Dicaeum of Asia and Australia. However, distinguishing between these species and ones of other ecological biomes is not difficult. They derive sustenance and agility through eating the fruits and nuts (drupes). The seeds are excreted in their droppings and stick to twigs, or more commonly the bird grips the fruit in its bill, squeezes the sticky coated seed out to the side, and then wipes its bill clean on a suitable branch. The seeds are coated with a sticky material called viscin (containing both cellulosic strands and mucopolysaccharides), which hardens and attaches the seed firmly to its future host.
Once a mistletoe plant has established itself on a branch, the usual treatment is to prune away the branch if it is a small one. However, it usually is possible to save a valuable branch by judicial removal of the wood invaded by the haustorium if the infection is caught early enough. Some species of mistletoe can regenerate if pruning leaves any of the haustorium alive in the wood.
Culture, folklore, and mythology
Mistletoe is commonly used as a Christmas decoration, though such use was rarely alluded to until the 18th century. Viscum album is used in Europe whereas Phoradendron serotinum is used in North America. According to custom, the mistletoe must not touch the ground between its cutting and its removal as the last of Christmas greens at Candlemas; it may remain hanging through the year, often to preserve the house from lightning or fire, until it was replaced the following Christmas Eve. The tradition has spread throughout the English-speaking world but is largely unknown in the rest of Europe.
The type of Mistletoe used during Christmas celebrations is of the same type as that believed to be sacred by ancient druids, but, outside northern Europe, the plant used is not the same species. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration in North America (Phoradendron flavescens) grows as a parasite on trees in the west as also in those growing in a line down the east from New Jersey to Florida. In Europe, where the custom originates, the 'original' mistletoe, Viscum album, is still used. The European mistletoe is a green shrub with small, yellow flowers and white, sticky berries which are considered poisonous. Ancient druids considered the Viscum album plant holy, but had no knowledge of the Phoradendron flavescens.
According to ancient Christmas custom, a man and a woman who meet under a hanging of mistletoe were obliged to kiss. The custom may be of Scandinavian origin. It was described in 1820 by American author Washington Irving in his "The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon":
- "The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases."
i have one hanging in the doorway between the dining room & the kitchen. it's been there for about 3 years. me, suzanne & a friend of hers were coming home from church one sunday & we saw some boys selling mistletoe by the side of the road. suzanne's friend said, "suzanne, if you hang some mistletoe maybe that boy you have a crush on will kiss you!" as a joke, we bought some. (suzanne didn't think it was funny!)
i think ours is broken.
no one has been kissed under this mistletoe.
after about a year i completely forgot that it was hanging up there!
but i didn't take the time to take it down.
one day i noticed it - all brown & ugly!!
it's been up there so long that it's "part of the decor" of the house!!
i've decided i'm going to leave it up there til it works!!!
work, dang mistletoe, work!!!
have a blessed weekend!!!!