Mistletoe is one of the most romantic symbols of the festive season.
But why is it so romanticised when the dark reality is that the plant is a parasite that sucks the water and nutrients out of trees.
There is a dark truth behind the smooch-inducing vine. Trees die prematurely due to the parasitic balls that grab onto branches and weigh up to 50 pounds, the Huffington Post reports.
Even the origins of it’s name is less-than-appetising. Ancient Anglo-Saxons noticed that mistletoe often grows where birds leave droppings, so named it ‘mistel’ meaning ‘dung’ and ‘tan’ meaning ‘twig’, so it’s basically ‘dung-on-a-twig’.
Besides the life-sucking tendencies of the plant, the mistletoe berries are poisonous to many humans and animals.
Scientific American explains how the seeds spreads:
The seeds are large and extremely sticky, coated in a sugary molecule called viscin. The seeds can either get stuck to the birds’ beaks, who then rub them against tree bark to get them off, or can be digested and pooped out onto trees, still sticky after their transit through the bird’s digestive system.
So with this terrible reputation, why are we all inclined to kiss underneath it?
Well, it was told in a Nordic myth in which the goddess of love, to prevent her son’s death, begged every plant and animal in her kingdom not to harm him. The goddess unfortunately forgets to ask mistletoe, who ultimately leads to her son’s death.
After this tragedy, the goddess crowns mistletoe a symbol of love for all time and promises a kiss to anyone who passes beneath it.
It’s not all bad though, mistletoe has been proven to have healing properties for menstrual cramps, epilepsy and ulcers, as well as creating a home for birds, squirrels and butterflies.
Just think of all those dying trees next time you’re kissing under those parasite berries.
I mean, happy smooching!