12 strange facts about mistletoe

The staff at Brompton Library have been very busy looking through our reference resources, both in the library and online for some festive facts.

First up –  12 strange facts about mistletoe:

  1. Mistletoe is a parasite that grows on around the tops of broad leave trees, mainly hawthorn, blackthorn, willow, oak and rowan.
  2. You can hardly ever find it on oak trees. It’s so rare to find it on oak trees that ancient druids thought that mistletoe on oak was sacred.
  3. Mistletoe bushes can grow up to 1m wide when they can look like baskets and are sometimes called Witches’ Brooms.
  4. Birds eat the leaves and berries but don’t eat them yourself because they are poisonous to humans.
  5. In Norse times, after Loki killed Baldur with a mistletoe spear, it became a symbol of love and friendship and anyone passing under the mistletoe would exchange a kiss.
  6. Other names for mistletoe are birdlime, all-heal, golden bough and devil’s fuge.
  7. The Greek word for mistletoe is “Phoradendron” which means “thief of the tree” because it feeds on trees and can kill them.
  8. During the Medieval times, mistletoe was used during the to ward off evil spirits and protect from the devil. It was then burnt when Christmas was over.
  9. The name “mistletoe” comes from the Anglo-Saxon words “mistle” and “tan” which mean “dung twig”. This is because mistletoe spreads its seeds via bird droppings! Birds eat the seeds and spread them when they do droppings in other places.
  10. Mistletoe was used for leprosy, hypertension, pain and intestinal worms in the past.
  11. Mistletoe is now being researched as a cure for colon cancer.
  12. Kissing under the mistletoe started again in Victorian times when servants played a game where any girl caught standing under the mistletoe was allowed to be kissed.
  13. In modern times people still like to kiss under this mistletoe, but nowadays we ask before we kiss!

We hope you enjoyed this; do look out for more festive posts coming soon.

Staff at Brompton Library