Everything you wanted to know about mistletoe, maybe more

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 23, 2018


When was the last time you were kissed under the mistletoe?

Interestingly, mistletoe is a parasitic plant that infects many tree species worldwide. Mistletoe grows mainly in hardwoods and is easily found on oaks and maples throughout Rowan County after fall leaf drop. Fortunately, the parasitic plant causes little damage to the growth and development of our trees.

The plant is able to produce much of its own chlorophyll, so its leaves have a healthy green color; however, it derives most of its nutrients from the xylem — or water conducting vessels — of the host tree.

Mistletoe has white, round, translucent berries that are spread easily by birds. The seeds are coated with a sticky layer allowing the seeds to readily stick to the bark of the tree, and then germinate by sending a modified root into the host cambium layer for nutrients.

It takes a year or so for the plant to become established on the host tree. Once the mistletoe roots are established, the evergreen plant grows quickly and is easily identified after leaf drop in the fall.

Traditionally, mistletoe is used to decorate the doorway and leading those inside to beautiful dreams as well as a place to exchange a kiss of peace.