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The Science Behind Mistletoe

There was a mistletoe shortage this year--Does this mean there were fewer KISSES this Christmas? Scientists can't tell us if hanging the plant above a doorway really does inspire love, but they do know the history behind this seasonal plant.

Mistletoe is found mainly in tropical or temperate areas. Its name refers a species of flowering parasitic plants. There are some 1,300 species of mistletoe worldwide. Most of the mistletoe sold in the US comes from Texas, a state that had the worst drought in its history this year.

In the December 22nd edition of the New York Times, Emily S. Rueb quotes Robert Tiemann, owner of one of the country's largest suppliers, in Priddy, Texas, as saying, "If you have been kissed under the mistletoe and it was bought, there's a 95% chance it came from us (but right now) there’s not enough mistletoe in the State of Texas to run a commercial operation."

The word "mistletoe" is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon "mist" or "mistel," meaning dung, and "tan," meaning twig, or "dung twig" (not a nice name for something we hang over the door on Christmas! NOTE: you can watch the video here). This comes from the fact that mistletoe is mostly spread by birds, through their droppings.

Some forms of mistletoe are found in trees. This happens when birds squeeze mistletoe seeds from the fruits before eating them and wipe the seeds on a branch. The seeds are covered in a sticky substance so they stay put on a limb until they sprout.

Rueb quotes Manhattan florist Michael George as saying, "In 1901 you needed to be under the mistletoe to steal a kiss in public. In 2011, you can do just about anything you want in public and it goes unnoticed (so) I don't think it will affect the number of kisses."

We're kind of out on a limb ourselves, since we frankly need some more Christmas spirit from YOU (NOTE: You can watch the video here)--our readers and listeners--if we're still going to be here in the future. Have Whitley and Anne fended off so many attacks over the years, only to die from neglect today? Only YOU can change that: Subscribe today!



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