Five facts about mistletoe

Mistletoe, found in many of our homes around Christmas, is a symbol of romance – but what else do we know about this festive plant?  

Winter trees

Did you know…

1. Tree-hugger

Mistletoe grows in the branches of trees – such as lime, poplar, hawthorn and, predominantly, cultivated apple. It never grows in the ground.

Winter trees
Mistletoe is easy to spot in the winter growing in leafless trees ©Getty
2. From the sun and trees

It is semi-parasitic. Like many plants, it produces its own food using photosynthesis, but it also extracts minerals and water from a host tree.

Mistletoe is semi-parasitic ©Getty
3. Home

The plant is most abundant in the south and west Midlands and east Wales. 

Mistletoe at sunset ©Getty
4. Deceptively dangerous

It contains a poisonous protein called phoratoxin – if consumed, it can cause drowsiness, blurred vision, diarrhoea, vomiting and seizures.

Evergreen hemi-parasitic shrub in the family Santalaceae, growing on hawthorn
Sick with romantic – if ingested, mistletoe can cause sickness ©Getty
5. Diversity

There are up to 1,500 species of mistletoe around the world. For many of us, the most familiar is European mistletoe (Viscum album) – we use this to decorate our homes at Christmas.

Viscum album or mistletoe is a hemiparasite on several species of trees, it has a significant role in European mythology, legends, and customs
Viscous album is the most familiar mistletoe species to many of us ©Getty

Loving the mistletoe? Why not make your own mistletoe and holly block-print cards – the perfect Christmas gift.


Main image ©Getty