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Discovery Magazine 5/1/2003

Kissing Underneath the Parasite

Have you ever noticed those clumps of greenery in the tops of trees during the winter when all the autumn leaves have fallen to the ground? Those clumps are most likely one of more than 1,300 species of mistletoe(miss-ul-tow). Hanging mistletoe over a doorway at Christmas has long been a tradition for many Americans (and a lot of other people around the world). The custom has been to kiss when standing under the mistletoe.

Since mistletoe is a parasite, it depends uponother plants to survive. Its transfer from one tree to another usually oc-curs when birds eat the berries and leave their droppings on another tree branch. The droppings contain seeds, which sprout a thread-like root that burrows into the tree branch. When it finds the tree’s network of water-carrying cells, the mistletoe builds
its own system of ducts to steal water and nutrients. Once anchored in the tree, mistletoe can grow until it becomes a bush that is five feet in diameter.

Mistletoe grows very slowly. The number of forks reveals the age of the mistletoe, each fork standing for one year’s growth. This parasite is an evergreen, which means it stays green all year. Its leaves are thick and leathery. Herbalists believe mistletoe can be used as medicine. In the British Isles, its leaves and twigs have been fed to sheep in winter, when food was scarce, and they ate it with zest. But don’t eat any yourself! Eating mistletoe can cause severe stomach cramps, and in some cases can be fatal!

Many myths surround mistletoe. Vikings in the eighth century believed that mistletoe had the power to raise people from the dead. The custom of hanging a branch of mistletoe over the door at Christmastime comes from England.Every woman standing under the mistletoe could be kissed. The legend is that if an unmarried woman is not kissed under the mistletoe, she will remain single for another year. Americans are gradually using mistletoe more as a seasonal decoration. Mistletoe was adopted in 1893 as the state floral emblem of Okla-homa. With so much of it around, don’t expect to kiss mistletoe goodbye anytime soon.

Mistletoe, and other parasites, were created by God as part of the Earth so that humans could have the perfect environment in which to live and make decisions. Let’s all decide to worship and obey God, Who created this wonderful world for us.

Copyright © 2003 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

*Please keep in mind that Discovery articles are written for 3rd-6th graders.

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