|Friday Five: Fun Facts About Mistletoe|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Friday, 18 December 2009|
Mistletoe is part of the Christmas tradition for many people, but how many of us really know anything about mistletoe? We all know about sneaking a kiss under that sprig of mistletoe, but did you know mistletoe is actually a parasite? Here are five fun facts about mistletoe you can impress your friends with...or maybe not.
1. Mistletoe is a catchall term for the more than 1500 species of "mistletoe" growing around the world, most of them growing in the tropics and belonging to an entirely different plant family. The mistletoe of American Christmas tradition is known as Phoradendron spp., while the mistletoe of European Christmas tradition is an entirely different genus, Viscum album; however, both are members of the Viscaceae plant family.
2. Mistletoe is a hemi-parasitic evergreen plant. While it does contain some chlorophyll and can photosynthesize some of its own nutrients, mistletoe prefers to live off its host tree. In America, mistletoe is considered an invasive species that eventually kills its host. European mistletoe merely weakens its host but does not kill it.
3. Mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum) is the state flower of Oklahoma.
4. The origin of the word mistletoe seems to refer to the fact that mistletoe was observed as appearing on a tree wherever a thrush (mistel or missel) left its excrement on a branch or -toe. Mistletoe spreads through birds eating and digesting the seeds, which are then deposited on a tree branch where roots soon begin to grow and burrow into the host.
5. The white berries of the American mistletoe are extremely poisonous to people and pets but not to birds. Many people know this, but many do not so it's worth repeating. Oddly enough, the berries of the European mistletoe are not poisonous at all and are used medicinally.