European Mistletoe (Viscum Album)

Mistletoe's Green Circles Stand Out in Early Spring

Last weekend we drove up to Rudnik, Serbia in the Šumadija region just south of Belgrade. Above you will see in the trees, bright green balls of European Mistletoe. The mistletoe is an evergreen plant, and it lives on trees that are deciduous. To the ancients of Europe, that caused them to believe that mistletoe had some magical or spiritual powers. The plant has a long history of importance in cultures around the world. They are found in trees all over the world including many in Belgrade.

The white berries and yellow flowers for the mistletoe

European mistletoe belongs to a large group of plants, there are over 2000 different species of mistletoe. They are “hemiparasitic” which means that they do photosynthesize, that is make their own food, but they also put roots into the branches of trees to steal nutrients. They do not grow in soil. They are propagated via birds eating the sticky seeds and rubbing their backsides on branches of trees to clean the still-sticky excrement from their feathers. They are also spread through birds cleaning their bills on trees. Mistletoes are identified by the dull green, two-leaves opposite of each other on the branches. I lived a long time in the tropics and noticed that the mistletoes there have larger, brighter, orange flowers compared to the small yellow flowers of the European mistletoe.

The plant has for a long time, been regarded as a medicinal plant. There are many website still touting it curative powers for a variety of ailments. The berries are poisonous if ingested internally. Mistletoes are also very prevalent in many cultures. Today they are popular at Christmas and the custom of kissing under the mistletoe has its origins in Nordic mythology. The link here has a lot of information about the mistletoe.


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