American Mistletoe


Interesting Information About Plant:

     Mistletoe has an interesting story behind its name. Several hundred years ago, it was thought that the mistletoe plant was formed through the formation of bird droppings. It was thought that the plant of mistletoe could spontaneously materialize from these droppings. In ancient times, this plant would grow on twigs that already had bird droppings on it.  The literal translation for the word “mistletoe” is “dung-on-a-twig.” Of course thats not true because then you'd have mistletoe growing from the hood of your car after you parked under a tree. It is actually a semi-parasitic plant, which means it needs a host to start growing and it takes nutrients and food from the host but it also makes food for itself after it starts to grow leaves. Seeds are spread in the fruit which is eaten by birds.

     Mistletoe has been thought to be a very sacred plant in the countries of Europe. It is considered an aphrodisiac, as well as a protection against poison. It is considered to be one of Europe’s most sacred, magical, and mysterious plants. The Celtic Druids considered it especially sacred. On the sixth night of the moon, the Druid priests would cut the mistletoe plant off of the branches with a golden sickle. Then, two bulls would be sacrificed, and prayers would be made for the recipients of the plant. The plant of mistletoe has also been hung to keep away evil spirits.

Common Name(s):    Mistletoe

Scientific Name:    Phoradendron serotinum (Raf.) M.C. Johnst.

Family Name (Scientific and Common):   Viscaceae (Loranthaceae),  Mistletoe Family

Continent of Origin:     eastern U.S.

Plant Growth Habit:     Parasitic Evergreen Plant

Height at Maturity:   Between 1- 3 Feet

Life Span:    Perennial

Seasonal Habit:      Evergreen Perennial  

Growth Habitat:    Partial Sun  

Manner of Culture:     Native Parasite (Weedy)

Thorns on Younger Stem No

Cross Section of Younger Stem:     Roundish   

Stem (or Trunk) Diameter:      Between The Diameter of a Pencil and a Broom-Handle 

Produces Brownish Bark:   No  

Bark Peeling in Many Areas:    No

Characteristics of Mature (Brownish) Bark:    Stays green whole life  

Type of Leaf:   Thick, Fleshy Leaf

Size of Leaf (or Leaflet):   Smaller than a Credit Card 

Leaf Complexity:       Simple

Edge of Leaf:      Smooth 

Leaf Arrangement:     Opposite 

Leaf has Petiole:    Yes 

Patterns of Main-Veins on Leaf (or Leaflet):     Pinnate 

Leaf Hairiness:      Somewhat Hairy  

Color of Foliage in Summer:  Green 

Change in Color of Foliage in October:      No Change   

Flowering Season:     Spring 

Flowers:    in Loose Group 

Type of Flower:   Colorful Flower

Color of Flower:   Yellow 

Shape of Individual Flower:     Radially Symmetrical 

Size of Individual Flower:      Smaller than a Quarter

Sexuality:   Male and Female Flowers on Separate plants

Size of Fruit:    Smaller than a Quarter 

Fruit Fleshiness:    Fleshy  

Shape of Fruit:    Spherical   

Color of Fruit at Maturity:      White

Fruit Desirable to Birds or Squirrels:      Yes   

Louisville Plants That Are Most Easily Confused With This One:      Nothing really (probably whatever host it is on)

Unique Morphological Features of Plant:     The berry gets placed on a branch of a tree and it forms an attachment (called a haustoria) which grows into the vascular part of the plant where it steals nutrients, food, and water to start growing. Then it starts to make most of its own food (by photosynthesis) when it grows leaves.

Poisonous:    Berries   

Pestiness (weedy, hard to control):    Yes  

Page prepared by:  Jon Obert and Caitlin Jones

            November 24, 2004