Okefenokee Oak Mistletoe

Oak Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum, is a hemiparasitic plant native to the United States and Mexico that lives in the branches of trees. Mistletoe is used as a Christmas decoration. Photographed in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. Mixon`s Hammock on Suwannee River. May 2020. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally from Dreamstime.com.

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.

Oak Mistletoe, Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. May 2020. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally from Dreamstime.com.

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!

Merry Christmas!


iNaturalist observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/45781868

2 Comments

  1. Hi William. Really enjoyed this article on mistletoe. Never knew much about this plant, but found your description interesting. As for getting it out of a tree – shotgun, a very unique approach…
    God Bless!

    Liked by 1 person

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