Mistletoe

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Mistletoe
European mistletoe attached to a silver birch
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Santalales
Families

Santalaceae (Viscaceae)
Loranthaceae
Misodendraceae

Mistletoe is the common name for a group of hemi-parasitic plants in the order Santalales that grow attached to and within the branches of a tree or shrub.

Species[change | edit source]

The name was first given to Viscum album (European Mistletoe, Santalaceae), the only species native in Great Britain and much of Europe. Later the name was fgiven to other related species, including Phoradendron serotinum (the Eastern Mistletoe of eastern North America, also Santalaceae).

The largest family of Mistletoes, Loranthaceae, has 73 genera and over 900 species.[1]

In culture and myths[change | edit source]

European mistletoe played a large role in Greek mythology, and is believed to be The Golden Bough of Aeneas, ancestor of the Romans.[2] The Norse god Baldr was killed with mistletoe.[3]

In Romanian traditions, mistletoe (vâsc in Romanian) is considered a source of good fortune.

William Shakespeare mentions it in Titus Andronicus, Act II, Scene I: "Overcome with moss and baleful mistletoe".

Mistletoe is often used as a Christmas decoration. Viscum album is used in Europe and Phoradendron serotinum is used in North America. According to custom, the mistletoe must not touch the ground between its cutting and its removal as the last of Christmas greens at Candlemas; it may remain hanging through the year, often to preserve the house from lightning or fire, until it was replaced the following Christmas Eve.[4].

Mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens) is the state floral emblem for the State of Oklahoma.

Kissing under mistletoe at Christmas[change | edit source]

According to a custom during Christmas, any two people who meet under a hanging of mistletoe are urged to kiss. The custom started in Scandinavia.[5][6]

References[change | edit source]

  1. WS Judd, CS Campbell, EA Kellogg, PF Stevens & MJ Donaghue (2002) Plant systematics: a phylogenetic approach. Sinauer Associates, Inc., Sunderland Massachusetts, USA. ISBN 0-87893-403-0
  2. Virgil (19 BCE) The Aeneid
  3. Gylfaginning, XLIX On-line text
  4. Drury 1987.
  5. E. Cobham Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable 1898, s.v. "Kissing under the mistletoe" relates the custom to the death of Balder, without authority.
  6. The WorldofChristmas.net

Other websites[change | edit source]