A large clump of thick green leaves sits high in otherwise bare tree. The thick glossy leaves growing are completely unlike the normal foliage furled out by that tree in the spring. This makes Mistletoe easy to spot, especially in the winter. Its parasitic nature – stealing water and nutrients from its host – is what earned phoradendron (literally, tree thief) its scientific name.
So what made a parasite become a Christmas decoration? Internet stories about, but the underlying theme is that mistletoe was hung in the house as an icon of good luck. The superstitious belief that it fosters love and friendship may have led to the tradition of kissing beneath the mistletoe.
Each December, my coworker’s children collected mistletoe, tied a red ribbon around small bundles, and sold them to friends, family, coworkers and at Christmas craft fairs to have a bit of Christmas pocket cash. Since the clumps of mistletoe are often high within the trees, I had to inquire where his teenage boys learned how to climb so high. I was then schooled on how southerners in Georgia collected mistletoe: shoot it out of the tree with a shotgun!
iNaturalist observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/45781868