Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe ( Viscum album), an interesting parasitic plant, belonging to the order Loranthaceaj, the only species of its genus which is a native of Europe. It forms an evergreen bush, sometimes four feet long, with a woody stem, repeatedly and dichasially branched, and having no cork but a persistent epidermis. The yellowish-green leaves are sessile, leathery, in opposite pairs, and obovate in form. The small flowers are dioecious, and appear in February or March. They have four perianth-lobes, the anthers in the male flowers being epiphyllous and opening by numerous pores. The fruit is a pearly transparent berry, full of viscid pulp, and containing one adherent seed, destitute of a testa. The seed often contains two embryos. The berry is eaten by many birds, especially the missel-thrush, and from their beaks the seeds are rubbed into cracks in the bark of trees. The roots of mistletoe graft themselves into the sap-wood of many trees, especially the apple, poplar, lime, and hawthorn, rarely on the oak, but occasionally on cedars and firs. Less than twenty mistletoe-oaks are known in England, nearly all of them in Herefordshire. Jack-in-the-Green's May-day garb of boughs is said to be a relic of that worn by Druids yvhen searching- for a mistletoe oak, round which, when found, they are said to have danced singing "Hey derry down," or "In a circle move we round the oak." Pliny describes how the white-vested arch-druid cut the plant with a golden sickle and distributed it as an all-healing remedy. Its downward growth long led to its use as a cure for giddiness. The origin of its modern use is somewhat obscure. Many tons are annually brought to London from Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and Normandy.