MISTLETOE: Bernheim Forest horticulturist explains the science and traditions

By Amy Joseph Landon

Source: WDRB
December 24, 2019

Click here to view video

BERNHEIM FOREST (WDRB) — We’ve all seen it hanging from the doorpost and we all know what it means: hints of romantic interludes, or awkward moments.

But even though the mistletoe is “hung where you can see,” oftentimes holiday revelers don’t know where it comes from. Believe it or not, it’s actually a type of parasite.

And mistletoe has a way of spreading.

“The plants absolutely do berry,” London said. “They are flowering plants and they produce white, translucent berries. These berries are picked up by birds. They’re not very variable. They’re usually always white. There’s a sticky film on the seed of this berry as it’s dropped from great heights by these birds or wiped off of the fur of mammals or bird beaks.”

That’s when the mistletoe takes root.

“It penetrates the tree, makes it its host and starts growing as mistletoe.”

“Mistletoe can grow anywhere on a host tree, and it actually hosts on hundreds of trees in North America,” London said. “It is not always growing on the tops of trees. In fact, landing on the bark lower to the ground such as here, you can see that it’s germinated and it’s growing just fine.”

But science aside, London acknowledges that mistletoe has special meaning grounded in metaphor.

“Being evergreen, it’s a sign of hope for the spring to come, and folks usually bring it indoors and use it in their traditions.”

Copyright 2019 by WDRB Media. All rights reserved.

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