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Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006

IN BLOOM

Yadorigi (Mistletoe)


Sitting under the mistletoe (Pale green, fairy mistletoe) One last candle burning low, All the sleepy dancers gone, Just one candle burning on, Shadows lurking everywhere: Some one came, and kissed me there!

From "Mistletoe, a Christmas Poem," by the English poet Walter De La Mare (1873-1956)

Here is a very special plant to wish you all a happy Christmas. Most species of mistletoe grow in tropical or subtropical regions, but a few grow in temperate areas, including parts of Japan. The Japanese mistletoe (Viscum album subsp. coloratum) takes its name from the verb yadoru, meaning "to lodge, or dwell," and this is exactly what the plants do. Birds love to eat the berries, but the sticky seeds cling to their beaks, so they wipe them off onto various branches. A few lucky seeds, finding good growing conditions, send out a tiny root or two and eventually bind themselves into the living timber. Mistletoe can be an unwelcome guest, since the plant is a semi-parasite, that takes most of its food and water from its host. While some species form a harmless, nest-like ball, others, such as the American mistletoe, can eventually kill their host. Apple trees are favorite hosts, as well as poplars and occasionally oak trees. The European mistletoe (V. album) is a particularly attractive evergreen with pearly berries and wing-shaped leaves. In ancient Britain, druids would gather ceremonial mistletoe with a golden knife. According to folklore, a sprig of mistletoe would protect the home from lightning and storms. It was also linked to fertility and peace, and long before Christianity arrived in northern Europe, people used to kiss under a ball of mistletoe at the old festival of midwinter.



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