Mistletoe is a tradition for Christmas in many countries. It is also traditional to kiss underneath it but many people do not know what started this tradition and why we do it.

Christmas Mistletoe

Christmas Mistletoe Wallpaper

The word mistletoe was derived form anglo-saxon words. The word mistel meant dung and tan meant twig. It is felt this was because often birds would leave droppings on a branch which contained the mistletoe seeds. In ancient times people thought that the bird landing on the branch caused the plant to grow rather than understanding about the spread of seeds.

In France an ancient story says that mistletoe was found growing on the tree which was used to make the cross of Christ which is why it was denied a place to live and had to be a parasite, living on other trees.

Characteristics of Mistletoe

Mistletoe grows on hardwood tress, things like oak or apple and is a parasite. This means that it needs the tree to survive and it actually roots in to the bark and takes the trees nutrients. It can damage the tree, perhaps making the branches grow funny but it does not normally kill it because it would die if the tree did.

The mistletoe does produce its own food using photosynthesis like other plants and trees. However, is it most common for it to attach itself to another plant or tree and can even be found growing on top of another mistletoe plant.

The plant keeps its green leaves all year long and flowers in many colors, depending on the variety. It can also have berries that are either red or white.

The plant itself and the berries are poisonous. A small amount can cause stomach ache or upset stomach and too much can kill. It is dangerous to animals as well as people so keeps pets as well as small children well away.

Spreading the seed

The berries that mistletoe grows in the winter, tend to be eaten by birds. The birds perch on branches and the seed comes out through their droppings and then sprout roots into the bark. The birds also wipe their beaks on the branches to rub off the sticky berry juice and this can also spread seeds. It just takes six weeks for the plants to start to grow.

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