Mistletoe: facts and fiction

Mistletoe

Mistletoe growing in my neighbor's Maple tree

 This parasitic plant which can be found growing in the branches of trees or shrubs has a long mythological history dating back to Ancient Rome and Greece.  It bears it’s fruits during the Winter Solstice  and may of been used in druid or celtic rituals as a symbol of immortality.   In Christian tradition it was believed that this plant was once a tree but the wood was used to build the cross for the crusifixion.   Afterwards it became a parasitic vine forevermore.   Kissing under the mistletoe originated in Scandinavia where it is considered a plant of peace.  If enemies came upon each other underneith this plant they laid down their weapons for a day as a truce.  It has an ecological purpose today for wildlife and the host plants.   The leaves are used as food and nesting  for many animals and birds.  There has been some evidence of it increasing berry production on Junipers which attract wildlife as well.  Nowadays the foliage of this plant is popular with herbalists for treating various respiratory and circulatory ailments in Europe.  They have also used it in the treatment of cancer and tumors.   Of course these remedies have not been approved for use in the United States yet.  Just another plant with a long history of uses and traditions.

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13 responses to this post.

  1. The history of it is fascinating. We had it growing in our trees in southern Alabama but not here in this area. I am very grateful for that too. We have enough trouble with oak galls in the trees as it is. The question begs to be asked, Do you cut your own sprigs and put it around the house?

    I’m glad you think so Tina, I was fascinated by the indept history of this plant. Well it’s not growing in my yard so no I don’t cut my own sprigs.

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  2. That’s a nice bunch of mistletoe in the tree! When I was growing up, my father would shoot it down out of the trees, because he didn’t want to climb the trees to get it out for my mother’s Christmas decorations. I haven’t carried on that particular tradition! 🙂

    Cameron

    Thanks Cameron, that sounds like an interesting tradition for gathering mistletoe. lol I’m sure your neighbors are appreciative (or would be if they knew) that you haven’t carried this on. 🙂

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  3. That was some interesting information Racquel. Thought that was neat about it at one time being a tree and the wood being used for the cross.

    I’m glad you found it informational Susie. The part about the cross was something I had never heard before and I thought it was neat too.

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  4. Very interesting post. Is this then called the Kissing Tree ?

    Thanks Cindy, I don’t think I found any information about it being called the Kissing Tree though.

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  5. Interesting information Racquel–thanks! I remember as a child going out to Samuel Farm on a picnic and gathering mmistletoe to hang at Christmas!

    You are quite welcome Linda. We always had an artificial arrangement of it growing up but never the real thing.

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  6. What a lovely informative post 🙂 And we’ve just found some mistletoe close to home too!

    Thanks VP, glad you found it informative. It is a festive plant for the season. 🙂

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  7. Hi Racquel, thanks for this very informative post. I love to know the lore behind things too. Mistletoe is the state flower of Oklahoma, where I grew up, and it was plentiful there. Here in TN, it was killed off in a severe winter the year before we moved here the first time, 1987 and did not return. We did find some in the mountains in CA and also near San Antonio TX, what a range!
    Frances

    Hi Frances, you are quite welcome. It is interesting learning the history behind some of our customs isn’t it. I read that it was the state flower of OK until 2004 when it was replaced with the Oklahoma Rose. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t cold hardy, how interesting. Our winters are quite mild here and I’ve noticed that it seems to be multiplying in my neighbor’s tree.

    Reply

  8. Very interesting. Thanks for passing that info along. What’s the difference between Larkspur, Lupine and Foxglove? Just about to look it up!

    Your welcome Darla. Glad to do it! I know that Larkspur (Consolida) is related to Delphinium. Foxgloves (Digitalis) are biennials, Lupines (Lupinus) are part of the Legume family. Is that helpful? They are all completely different looking plants.

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  9. They all look quite similar on the seed packets. I bought all three and am going to give them a go. I looked them up and did see that they are different though. We will see how they turn out. I love delphinium, my mom grew them, I haven’t yet. As fas as the plant I thought might be Russian sage, I have never seen white forsythia before and it is sweet smelling.

    Good luck with your seeds. I’ve grown Foxgloves & Lupine from seed in the past with some success. I love Foxgloves for the shade garden. I don’t think it is Forysthia afterall, I think Susie is correct with her identification. 🙂

    Reply

  10. Great info, I never knew that … guess I will have to go out and see if I can spot some mistletoe hanging around 🙂

    Thanks Mom, I never knew all this great historic lore either until I did some reading.

    Reply

  11. Very interesting

    Thanks Deb, glad you thought so. 🙂

    Reply

  12. Most imteresting facts about a plant that may begin many a romance!
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas!

    Thanks Anna! It does have a romantic history. Merry Christmas!

    Reply

  13. Thanks for the info on mistletoe–I think it’s great it’s an effective treatment for some diseases!

    You are quite welcome Monica. I was intriqued by the medicinal uses of this plant too.

    Reply

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