GARDENING: Mistletoe’s not-so-romantic side

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When you think about mistletoe you think about kissing under it. But you don’t think about the fact that mistletoe is a poisonous parasitic plant. Much less glamorous than the holiday decoration with romance that it is associated with.

Mistletoe is spread on trees through bird poop, when you break don’t the name it come from two Anglo Saxon words ‘Mistel’ (meaning dung) and ‘tan’(meaning stick). Meaning Mistletoe directly translates too poop stick.

This is a far stretch from the holiday romance that we all think of today it really makes you question how this kissing under the mistletoe tradition began. The custom comes from England, it was originally practiced that a berry would be picked allowing you to kiss someone until all the berries were gone then there would be no more kissing.

Not only is mistletoe just bird poop on a stick, it is also a hemiparasite meaning it cannot survive without a living host. It uses the water transport system of its host to survive and grow. And although it is transported through bird feces after they ingest it, mistletoe has dangerous cytotoxins that are harmful to human cells. If ingested it can lead to stomach issues and a slow heartbeat so, make sure to contact poison control if anyone or any pets accidentally ingest this holiday décor.

Although you get to kiss under the mistletoe traditionally you may think twice this holiday season when stealing a kiss this year. Happy holidays!