Why do we kiss under the Mistletoe?


Common Name: American Mistletoe

Scientific Name: Phoradendron serotinum

There is a lot to be said about Mistletoe, but the focus of this post is  on Christmas and kissing.  I like the sound of that- Christmas and kissing – sort of like Charles Schultz’s  Lucy liking the sound of money being dropped in her cash box.

How did this come about, you wonder?  So did I.  december-30-2008-181

A lot of interesting tidbits surfaced when researching this.  As we know, Mistletoe is a hemiparasitic in that it is a green plant that photosynthesizes its own food while simultaneously getting water and nutrients from the host tree via thin root-like structures called haustoria.

Also birds are attracted to the white, sticky berries.   My kids are getting really good at spotting it in the trees…this is new from last year.

To dissect the word takes the romance out of it, so I want to skip that part.

To get back to the romance, Mistletoe is reputed to have powers to increase human fertility.  Bingo!

Kissing under the mistletoe is believed to have started with the Celtic notion that mistletoe improved fertility.  I’m going to interject that most likely this was realized insitu – while the mistletoe was still in the tree and two young lovers met there and well, did a little more than kissing.  I guess as traditions evolved and morals relaxed, why not bring it inside where it’s warm?december-30-2008-189 Merry Christmas and Kissmas to all!




  1. Growing up in the country, you can sure guess how folks harvested the mistletoe … by shooting it down out of the trees!

    Good history!


  2. tina said

    A very kissmas post Helen. Interesting too:) I have a question about mistletoe that I haven’t seen anywhere, does anyone know if the mistletoe actually harms the tree? I don’t know so I don’t ever want it to show up in my yard.

    Cameron, hubby just told me about the shotgun harvesting. I’ll go one better, on this weeks’ Volunteer Gardener the Barefoot Gardener (Jeff Poppen-yes he’s really barefoot!) tried throwing stones at the mistletoe, when that didn’t work, he switched to logs. It was too funny! And of course NOT successful. He finally climbed the tree-barefoot-and picked the mistletoe.

  3. Yes, Tina, it can harm the tree. It will eventually kill the branch it hooks on to. If the parasite is evenly distributed in the tree though, like the example tree in the photos, they both can live together happily. Often times it will cluster as birds spread it and since many birds spend time at the tops and tips of the tree, that is where it ends up. Merry Kissmas to you!

  4. Actually, Tina, yes, mistletoe can harm a tree. This parasite will eventually kill the branch it hooks on to. If, however, the mistletoe is evenly distributed and at the tops and tips of the tree, as it is in the example photos, then both can live together happily. When it is a problem is when it forms in tight clusters and not evenly distributed.

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