There isn't much time to spare until Christmas. I must put into motion my diabolical plans to lure Kel under the mistletoe for a kiss, perhaps even under all of the mistletoe, but considering that Oklahoma trees are lousy with the stuff, it could take a while for us to make the complete rounds of the ranch. I'm not complaining; somebody has got to do it. Balls of mistletoe live high up in the branches of winged elms, bois d'arc and just about any other kind of tree on which their seeds find themselves perched.
Until we moved out here and saw it for ourselves, mistletoe had always been for me a questionable, bogus entity - a mythical plant; a fantasy product of Christmas and Christmas carols, bad jokes and awkward moments at holiday parties. Who knew that it was an actual plant, a parasite, no less - that siphons off the water and nutrients (though it handles photosynthesis all by itself) of its host trees, thereby stalling the trees' growth? Sounds romantic, doesn't it? Admittedly, it is rather pretty, with bright green, succulent leaves that grow in a neat ball. It looks like a strange extension of the tree itself, artificially robust and healthy amidst the drab decay of winter all around it.
(As pretty as it is, don't be tempted to toss mistletoe leaves in with your salad greens. Eating it causes severe GI and stomach distress, [ahem] diarrhea and low pulse rate.)
Mistletoe isn't all bad. Turns out a large number of animals depend on the leaves, shoots, berries and seeds. In fact, it's the seeds that pass through a bird's system and land on branches that sprout and become new mistletoe plants. (Mistel is Anglo-Saxon for "dung," and tan or tang - from which "toe" derived - means "twig," so mistletoe is "dung on a twig." Lovely imagery there.) Some birds even use mistletoe plants as a place to build their nests.
This hemi-parasitic plant can be found in Europe, North America and Australia and it boasts hundreds of different species. Despite its poisonous tendencies, you can find mistletoe extracts and solutions in the world of homeopathics as an aid in respiratory and circulatory ailments. There has even been research into its use as a cancer cure, but results have not been promising. Unless you are Suzanne Somers.
(All the botany stuff came from Wikipedia. Where would my blog be without Wikipedia?!)