Monday, 23 January 2012

What grows on trees

Nope, it's not money. It's mistletoe.

Here in France where I live it's everywhere. For many months I didn't twig (pun) as to what that obviously epiphytic/parasitic plant was growing in the trees. Christmas confirmed it. It's definitely a parasitic mistletoe which enjoys sucking the life force from a great variety of trees.

If the tree is basically healthy the mistletoe doesn't kill it (that would be rather suicidal). There's quite a bit in JC's trees. At Christmas he was chopping dead or sick branches off his trees and then brought in a branch of mistletoe with it's strong root. The leaves are tough but soon dry out if it is separated from its host tree. We popped it in the Christmas Tree for fun though you could hardly see it-there were no white berries (too late in the season).

Over here it's called 'gui'. Seeing it in the trees and learning its French name immediately made the connection for me to the Asterix books. In those books there is the wizard (druid) Panoramix who climbs trees and uses his little sickle to cut bunches of gui to put in his cauldron to make the magic potion that makes Asterix and the rest of the village invincible. Somehow the real trees seem much higher than the trees Panoramix climbs in the books.

And the kissing tradition? Wikipedia says, "When Christianity became widespread in Europe after the 3rd century AD, the religious or mystical respect for the mistletoe plant was integrated to an extent into the new religion. In some way that is not presently understood, this may have led to the widespread custom of kissing under the mistletoe plant during the Christmas season. The earliest documented case of kissing under the mistletoe dates from 16th century England, a custom that was apparently very popular at that time."

There is no scientific proof it kills cancer or has any other important health properties.


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