Under the Mistletoe

A festive Christmas holiday decoration is the Mistletoe  (Phoradendron flavescens) which represents fertility, life, romance and peace. The Druids believed it was a sacred plant that would bring good health and luck. The tradition of “kissing under the Mistletoe” symbolized ancient fertility. It was also used for medicinal purposes in treating several ailments.

In reality mistletoe is a semi parasitic plant that makes its own food but thrives on other living plants for water and nutrients. Because it does not have a root system, mistletoe feeds on a host tree using root-like projections called haustoria. These projections penetrate the host tree and suck out water and nutrients, which can weaken and even kill a stressed tree, thereby earning the name “Vampire plant”.

There are over 1500 species worldwide but in the U.S., mistletoe is most prevalent in the southern states and grows on deciduous and evergreen trees. Much of it is harvested in Oklahoma and Texas for holiday decor.

Caution: All parts of the plants are poisonous. Today for safety reasons,  the sticky, poisonous, white berries are replaced with fake berries. That’s probably why they hang it from doorways and ceilings; to keep it away from children and animals.

Now you know the real story: This innocent looking sprig of a Christmas plant is quite sinister in nature.
source: U of Iowa