MISTLETOEMeaning, Facts, Varieties and Care Tips
When we think of mistletoe, we think of Christmas and stolen kisses underneath it. Mistletoe is such a key part of Christmas that weve put together this guide covering its meaning, what it is, how to grow it and lots of other useful information.
What is Mistletoe?
You might be surprised to find that mistletoe is a parasitic shrub that lives off other trees. It has small green leaves and a cluster of white berries and is traditionally hung in homes at Christmas time.
What is the meaning of mistletoe?
Over time mistletoe has symbolised many different things. In Greek mythology it was given to heroes to grant them passage to the underworld, and in Ancient Rome mistletoe was used to decorate homes for the Saturnalia celebrations.
In medieval times it was hung above doors all year round to ward off ghosts and witches, and the Druids believed it was sacred and a cure for diseases and poisons (which is ironic as mistletoe is actually poisonous if ingested).
Find out the meanings of more Christmas flowers.
Mistletoe Tradition - Kissing Under the Mistletoe
A common mistletoe tradition is that when you pass someone under the mistletoe you stop and give them a kiss. An old superstition is that if a woman didnt receive a kiss under the mistletoe she would remain single the coming year - luckily this has slipped out of modern belief.
So why do we kiss under the mistletoe?
In Scandinavian mythology, the Norse god Baldr was shot down and killed by an arrow made of mistletoe by the god Loki. The other gods came together to bring him back to life and gave control of mistletoe to his mother out of respect - as long as it never touched the ground which was Lokis territory.
Many believe that this is where the tradition of hanging mistletoe comes from, and we kiss under it as a token of peace and love, assuring mistletoe is no longer a shrub of ill-will and malice.
How to Grow Mistletoe
Common Questions About Mistletoe
Where does mistletoe grow?Mistletoe grows in trees where it has attached itself. Most often mistletoe is spread by birds that have eaten the seeds and grows in large clumps. Mistletoe seeds attach best to fruit trees which is why its so prominent in Herefordshire.
Is mistletoe poisonous?Yes. Mistletoe leaves, stems and berries are all poisonous if eaten. It can cause vomiting, drowsiness, blurred vision and even seizures. Its also poisonous to animals so keep it out of the way of cats and dogs.
What colour are mistletoe berries?Mistletoe berries are white. These waxy berries are coated in a sticky substance which helps them to be scattered by birds that swoop in to feed on them.
Is mistletoe a parasite?Yes. Mistletoe attaches itself to trees and steals nutrients and water from the host tree eventually weakening it.
Where can I find mistletoe?Mistletoe is most commonly found in the UK in the South and West Midlands - Hertfordshire and Worcestershire are the places most traditionally associated with mistletoe. Youll most commonly find mistletoe in apple, hawthorn, poplar, lime, rowan, willow and conifer trees.