Mistletoe

Young colonial boys apparently enjoyed a popular sport known as shooting down the mistletoe.

mistletoe hanging in tree

Photo: Martin LaBar

Since this type of Mistletoe grows high up in the tops of hardwood trees, it is hard to gather.

The English colonists in Virginia used Mistletoe to decorate their homes and their churches during the Christmas season. Mistletoes are evergreen parasitic plants with small leaves, yellowish flowers and waxy white berries.

When sprigs are hung as a Christmas decoration, men are, by custom, privileged to kiss women who stand under it, according to the description of it in Websters Dictionary.

Where To Find It

When I consulted Hortus (Third Edition) I found that the type of Mistletoe the colonists probably used was “Phoradendron serotinum,” which is found on deciduous trees of Eastern North America.

The seeds of this parasite germinate on host trees, and the plants attach themselves so that they can absorb fluids from the host. Since this type of Mistletoe grows high up in the tops of hardwood trees, it is hard to gather.

To add to this problem, it only becomes visible when the deciduous leaves have fallen from the trees. Luckily this happens at the right time of the years so that it is visible before the holiday season.

Young colonial boys apparently enjoyed a popular sport known as shooting down the mistletoe.

Viscum Album

The mistletoe of literary fame is an old world variety known as “Viscum Album,” and there is also a very showy red tropical variety. The State of Oklahoma adopted mistletoe “Phoradendron flavescens,” which blooms in the summer, as its state flower.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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