Holly is not mistletoe

I first published the article below back in 2012, but having just watched “The Masked Singer,” I feel compelled to reprint it. On the show Robin Thicke was given a gorgeous garland of HOLLY. Holly, people! Both Thicke and host Nick Cannon called it mistletoe. NO. A thousand times NO!

This is holly:

This is mistletoe:

I see no similarity whatsoever, aside from the leaves being green. Please learn the difference. Thank you. And pardon my rant.

Here’s my post from December 4, 2012:

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.


2 thoughts on “Holly is not mistletoe

  1. Growing up, we had relatives in WA who shipped a big box of real holly – with vibrant red berries – to my grandparents each year right after Thanksgiving. No relatives in OK, so don’t know that i ever saw real mistletoe till i started going to OKC for training! Thanks for the rant — a bit sad? disheartening? how that sort of mistake can happen on national tv.

... and that's my two cents