Phoradendron serotinum

Stacks Image 66
Stacks Image 124

Stem with leaves and fruits collected from another tree.

Phoradendron serotinum

E. North America

Location: map coordinates N-12 (northeast of Baker Building, on limbs of red maple tree (Acer rubrum), N 39°11'11'' W 75°32'43''

Planting history: “planted” naturally, most likely by birds (on tree limbs)

  • evergreen shrub; parasitic on host tree
  • etymology: Phoradendron means tree-thief; serotinum = developing late (refers to fruits which ripen in winter)
  • formerly Phoradendron leucarpum (synonym; leucarpum means white fruit)
  • common name “mistletoe” comes from Anglo-Saxon for “dung on a twig”
  • forms a dense green cluster growing up on the branches of host trees; especially visible in winter
  • hemi-parasite; obtains mainly water and mineral nutrients from host tree, but carries out photosynthesis to produce its own “food”. Hausteria (root-like structures) attach it to host tree
  • dioecious (separate male and female plants)
  • berries white; eaten by birds; sticky due to viscin coating known as “bird glue”; birds “plant” the seeds by wiping beaks on tree branches, and also in their droppings
  • yuletide tradition of kissing under mistletoe dates back to winter solstice celebrations of ancient Britain (ca 300 AD); ancient Celtic priests used European mistletoe as a potion in fertility rites. Also used to ward off evil
  • formerly used medicinally by Native Americans for epilepsy, headaches, oral contraceptive. Also used today in some countries as herbal remedy for cancer, and circulatory and respiratory problems. Warning: mistletoe is often considered to be poisonous (although usually not fatal)
  • native range generally southern, from Florida and Texas north to New Jersey
  • the only species of mistletoe in Delaware, where it seems to prefer red maple as its host tree

Native species, State Rank S4 (common, but not very common, in Delaware); on Delaware coastal plain
Stacks Image 76