Winter 2010 Newsletter

Dear Members:

Trying to keep up with the times FOFWP is sending you your newsletter via the internet rather than snail mail. [Those for whom we don’t have an internet address will receive theirs via the US mail.] Consequently is will become too difficult to remind you individually of your renewal month. As of 2011, January will become the common renewal date for everyone. Please use the website’s renewal to send in your dues in January, 2011. Some of you just renewed your membership in the past couple of months. If your renewal date was between August and December of 2010 your next renewal date will be January 2012. If you’re not sure of your renewal date Kathy Ward can answer your question. You can reach her at

Winter Essay

The winter holidays wouldn’t be complete without mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum). This plant, once seen as sacred by many earlier generations, is ubiquitous and problematic in Oklahoma and Texas (E. Silverthorne, 1996, Legends and Lore of Texas Wildflowers, Texas A&M University Press). The legend of this plant dates back to before the time of Celtic priests who once so worshiped the mistletoe and the tree in which it grew that they would hold special rituals. They would delicately remove mistletoe and catch it with a white cloth so it would not touch the ground (Silverthorne 1996). In addition to saying prayers of thanks under the tree, they would sacrifice two oxen (Silverthorne 1996). The priests would then give the Celtic people sprigs to carry with them for good luck and to hang in their doorways to drive evils spirits away. The Celtic priests and others thought that mistletoe, the only thing flourishing in a seemingly dead tree in the winter, was the soul of a tree, possessing magical powers (Silverthorne 1996). This hanging mistletoe came to symbolize peace and love and in the seventeenth century, English boys began taking advantage of this symbolism by claiming kisses from girls unknowingly walking under the mistletoe, plucking berries each time until all the berries were gone and kisses would seize (Silverthorne 1996).

Now, when one sees mistletoe in the branches of a tree, one does not think of the soul of a tree or stealing kisses. Rather they think of an infection that will now plague the branches of the tree. In fact, the scientific name Phoradendron, means “thief of a tree”. Surveys of packrat middens have shown that mistletoe has been around for 20, 000 years (USGS: “Not Just for Kissing: Mistletoe and Birds, Bees and other Beasts”; http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/special/mistletoe/). Once the seed of mistletoe is deposited on the branch of a tree, usually by a bird, it sends roots into the host tree and starts pulling nutrients and minerals from the tree (USGS). But scientists do not refer to these crafty little plants as parasites; rather they have labeled them as “hemi-parasites” because they are able to photosynthesize (USGS). Arborists and other professionals recommend removing infected branches once the plant is spotted. This will keep the plant from spreading and infection at bay.

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