Mistletoe is not holly

mistletoe ball
This is mistletoe. Note white berries and rounded leaves with smooth edges.

I was browsing for mistletoe images today, thinking about possibly decorating the Pied Type header for Christmas. You wouldn’t believe the not-mistletoe images that came up.

People, mistletoe is not holly (see picture below). It’s not pine, spruce, or fir. It has white berries, not red. Mistletoe is mistletoe. Period.

Mistletoe grows on tree branches like this.
In Oklahoma, mistletoe grows high in trees like this.

We’re all familiar with the centuries-old holiday tradition of kissing under a sprig of mistletoe. Certainly I grew up with it. Oklahoma (along with Texas) is the largest supplier of mistletoe in the U.S., and mistletoe was, in fact, the only state flower (“floral emblem”) of Oklahoma until 2004. Yes, it’s a parasite, not a proper flower, and a heavy infestation can kill a tree, but my old home state has a penchant for the unconventional. (They actually have three state flowers now.)

When I was little, kids with BB guns earned pocket change by shooting mistletoe out of the trees and selling it. Lacking a BB gun, one could sometimes get it by climbing the tree or by throwing something at or over the clumps of mistletoe. It grew prominently in the hackberries on our street, and everyone had mistletoe hanging in one or more places in their home during the holidays.

I haven’t noticed how much real mistletoe is gathered and sold these days. Purists probably still use the real thing, along with their real Christmas trees. Personally, I think plastic mistletoe is prettier and it doesn’t dry into a sad, withered yellowish green. It’s also much, much safer. Real mistletoe is toxic to pets and children and should not be in a home with either.

But just to make sure I don’t come off as too up-tight about this mistletoe thing, here’s a mistletoe item that showed up in my search:



P.S. This (below) is holly:

Note red berries and prickly leaves.

One thought on “Mistletoe is not holly

... and that's my two cents

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