This is the time of year when we love to have a spray of mistletoe decorating our holiday tables, worked into wreaths, or hanging over the door frame for an excuse to kiss the ones we love as they cross the threshold. How or why we do any of this is a bit of a mystery, considering:
- Mistletoe is toxic to humans. Ingesting the berries or other parts of the plant can produce symptoms including nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, blurred vision, changes in blood pressure, and possibly death. You might want to use the artificial variety for your decorations, especially if you have small children in your home.
- From bees to butterflies to birds, squirrels, porcupines, and deer, the plant is a great source of nectar, nesting, and nourishment for most animals. The glue-like quality of the seeds helps them attach to the feathers and beaks of birds. When the birds fly away and perch in a different tree, the sticky nectar finds a home on the bark and begins to grow into a new plant.
- Mistletoe is a parasite. The plant thrives by siphoning off valuable nutrients from its host trees and shrubs, causing decay, infection, and eventual death. As horrible as that sounds, it’s just part of the circle of life in a forest ecosystem.