December 24, 2012

Mistletoe a parasite?


Through the ages, mistletoe has had the reputation of increasing fertility of animals and humans, of foretelling the future of unmarried maidens, of keeping people safe from witches and evil spirits, and of healing disease. Today, we know that eating mistletoe or making tea from it will make you sick, and we keep it and the berries away from children and pets, or use an artificial sprig as winter décor.

In 1820, author Washington Irving in his “The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon” wrote: “The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.”

I bet if the young woman of the house chose the sprig to be hung, there would be lots of berries on it, but if the father of the young woman did the choosing, there would be but one or two. What do you think? 

Jolene Wallace is the horticulture program assistant for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. Contact her at 561-7450 or

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