Plant of the remote mythical past of the Old World, yet a part of the Illinois flora, mistletoe is a creature of legend. It grows wild in southern Illinois in counties bordering the rivers and forming a horseshoe beginning with Lawrence County on the Wabash and ending with Jackson on the Mississippi.
Phoradendron flavescens (Pursh) Nutt.
June. On trees in southern Illinois.
Here on many an oak and apple and elm, as well as on black gum, maple, sycamore, walnut, and honey locust, the great clusters of the mistletoe stand revealed when the leaves fall from the host trees. High above the ground the mistletoe in early summer blossomed with small greenish-yellow flowers and in autumn its translucent white waxen berries are ripe. Perhaps the robins wintering in the southern part of the state will come to the treetops to eat mistletoe berries. As the missel thrush of England does, perhaps the robins wipe their sticky beaks on a bough to clean off the clinging seeds. Thus will the mistletoe seeds find a place to grow. With never any contact with the soil, the tiny seeds finally will germinate, will send plug roots into the bark and eventually into the tissues of the tree. The mistletoe is a partial parasite. Although its thick oval leaves manufacture their own food, the plant, nevertheless, is dependent upon the tree for water and minerals. The tree itself does not appear to be greatly harmed by its guest.
Through the. centuries the mistletoe, because of its strange manner of growth, has been surrounded with legend and myth. In ancient Britain, mistletoe was revered by the Druids who. at the beginning of the winter solstice, held a special ceremony to cut the mistletoe from the sacred oak and bits of the plant were given to all who watched the ceremony.