Can a parasite inspire a kiss? Can a parasite be good? Mistletoe has long been used medicinally by the ancients and now it is being tested in labs to treat cancer and to boost the immune system. This marvelous plant is native to Fairfax County but don’t go eating it along -- the berries are poisonous to people. Not to birds though. Mistletoe provides winter food for birds and insects and nesting habitat in the spring. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant, which means even though it photosynthesizes, it obtains most of its water and nutrients directly from the trees it lives on. Any damage it does to the tree is not substantial enough to do any real harm and is far outweighed by the good it does in the ecosystem… and over the hearth during the holidays!
From ancient times, Mistletoe has been considered a bestower of life and fertility; a protectant against poison; and an aphrodisiac, gathered at the time of the winter solstice, and hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits.
You’ve got to get the kiss just right: first, the man should pluck a berry when he kisses a woman under the mistletoe, and, next, when the last berry is gone, the man may kiss the maiden no more.
Mistletoe is a partial parasite (a "hemiparasite"), as it grows on the branches or trunk of a tree and actually sends out roots that penetrate into the tree and take up nutrients, but can still produce some of its own energy by photosynthesizing.
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