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Garden Guru


Jim Boxberger
Posted 12/9/22

  Covid has changed everyone's life whether you were directly affected or just know who were. Things we used to take for granted like shaking hands, seems to still be taboo even today. Maybe in …

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Garden Guru



 Covid has changed everyone's life whether you were directly affected or just know who were. Things we used to take for granted like shaking hands, seems to still be taboo even today. Maybe in a few more years we can go back to being friendly, shaking hands, hugging and even maybe giving a kiss on the cheek. 

In this season of caring and cheer, there is one plant that has been completely neglected since Covid. We put up the Christmas tree and maybe even some pine roping around the door, but no one is putting up the Mistletoe. In this age of social distancing, Mistletoe is the last thing someone wants to put up in their archway. But, while many of us most readily associate the leafy, white-berried boughs with Christmas, kissing, and perhaps a certain Justin Bieber song, the plant is actually far more philosophically potent and symbolically profound than most of us might surmise. 

Here, a starter course on mistletoe and why it has more than earned its spot at your holiday gathering. Once upon a time, there prospered a plant called mistletoe. The plant was quite the contradictory one, unable to make up its mind: poisonous in certain varieties where raw consumption could lead to sickness or even death and yet elixir-like in other strains. In fact, mistletoe has been revered in Europe for centuries due to its believed medicinal value and supposed alleviation of conditions such as arthritis, hypertension, epilepsy, and infertility. 

Mistletoe also has a bit of a dark side as it performs a minimal amount of photosynthesis and instead is hemiparasitic, meaning it gets most, if not all, of its nutrients from another living plant. A tree, for instance, that is overrun with mistletoe will die. However, the ecological importance of mistletoe is so great that it has come to be understood as a ìkeystone species,î playing a hugely supportive role that positively affects biodiversity. 

A keystone species is a species which has a disproportionately large effect on its natural environment relative to its abundance. Many bird species feed off of the berries produced by the plant and areas with greater mistletoe densities have been found to support a much larger spectrum of animal diversity. Mistletoe retains its rich green color all winter long and its ability to bloom even in the depths of winter became symbolic of a token of eternal life and fertility.  

As early as the first century, the Celts came to prize and honor mistletoe as a symbol of vitality and good health, incorporating it into religious ceremonies. The Druids initiated the custom of hanging it over their door around the winter solstice to protect against evil and bring good tide. Even before that, the tradition and reverence of mistletoe made waves with the Greeks and Romans as well, and its importance in human culture was further solidified by its integral part in Virgilís The Golden Bough, part of the epic "Aeneid". In Scandinavia, mistletoe took on a meaning of peace and reconciliation under which enemies should lay their troubles to the side for a truce, or spouses undergoing hardship could kiss and make up. 

Mistletoe gained even more traction as the kissing plant  among the serving class in 18th or 19th-century England as this tradition caught on. According to the rules of the day, any man was able to kiss any woman standing under the mistletoe. It was considered bad luck to refuse the kiss and good luck to accept. With each kiss, a berry would be plucked until there were none remaining. It will probably be a few more years before Mistletoe comes back into fashion, but make no mistake, whether your eight or eighty, a kiss under the Mistletoe will always brighten your day.


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