Mistletoe – Viscum album is a semi-parasitic species from the Santalaceae family that grows on trees and remains green throughout the winter. Resembling a small spherical shrub reaching an average height of 60 cm, mistletoe is highly resistant to cold and lack of light. It forms knotty branches and leaves of a yellowish-green hue. It grows on walnut, apple, pear, oak, beech, lime, and fir branches, attaching itself to the host tree and extracting water and minerals from its woody vessels. It blooms from May to March.

Its fruits are small, round, milky-white berries, about the size of a pea, containing small and sticky seeds. Especially in winter, these fruits serve as food for many birds, particularly thrushes – Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Fieldfare, Blackbird, and Starling. These birds consume the fruits and excrete the intact seeds, serving as the primary means of dissemination. The seeds then attach to the bark, germinate, and form haustoria, similar to roots growing inside the host tree’s vegetative part, where they subsequently feed. Parasitic mistletoe branches develop less or dry up (Romanian Ornithological Society).

The tradition of hanging mistletoe branches

In many cultures, mistletoe was considered sacred, whether in Greece, ancient Rome, or Scandinavia. It symbolized fertility and immortality, being gathered in a special ceremony by the Celts. James George Frazer constructed his study of the history of primitive religion starting with mistletoe and deciphering the legend of the Golden Bough: “I am convinced that the Golden Bough was mistletoe, and I believe that the legend, in its entirety, can be connected, on the one hand, with the druidic veneration for mistletoe and the human sacrifices accompanying the druid cult, and on the other hand, with the Norwegian legend of the death of Balder.” James George Frazer, “The Golden Bough”

In Romania, mistletoe is widespread in Transylvania (especially in Cluj, Bihor, Sălaj, Brașov, Mureș), Moldova (Suceava, Botoșani, Neamț, Iași, Vrancea, Vaslui), and less so in the hill counties of Muntenia and Oltenia. It is harvested during the winter because – its berries are especially good during Christmas time and because it is more easily distinguished in the crown of trees.

Simion Florea Marian lists various ailments for which mistletoe was used but does not mention any other use of mistletoe in other circumstances. The tradition of hanging mistletoe branches in the house for the New Year was probably borrowed and has more recently become part of winter holiday customs, especially those around the New Year, which is why it is not mentioned in older ethnographic studies. Our research on mistletoe is still in its early stages, and we will add information gathered from our field research or other bibliographic sources over time.

Mistletoe for health

In his ethnobotanical studies, Simion Florea Marian refers only to Viscum album, mistletoe from fir, lime, pear, apple, but not to Loranthus europaeus, mistletoe from oak, which sheds its leaves. Fir mistletoe, lime mistletoe, as well as pear mistletoe, are good for heartache, shortness of breath, or asthma, chest pain, cough, and jaundice, as well as for the “evil disease” (epilepsy). It is administered to sheep to relieve jaundice.

For cough and shortness of breath, the leaves and berries of mistletoe are boiled together, either alone or with wine, and then the resulting wine is consumed.

For heartache, the leaves and berries of mistletoe are boiled in clean water, and the obtained juice is drunk on an empty stomach.

For chest pain, the apples and leaves of mistletoe are boiled in a pot of milk with added sugar, and the mixture is consumed.

For lower back pain, mistletoe is boiled entirely in water, transformed into a kind of paste, spread on a cloth, and tied around the waist. “This binding relieves pain and discomfort, allowing the person to walk again.” (Simion Florea Marian, Botanica poporană română)


1. James George Frazer, “The Golden Bough”, Library for All, Minera Publishing House, 1980.
2. Simion Florea Marian, Botanica poporană română Vol III, Ediție critică, introducere, repere
biobibliografice, indice Botanica, indice capitole publicate antum/postum, text stabilit, indice
informatori și bibliografie de Aura Brădățan, Editura Academiei Române, Suceava, 2010

3. Marcel Ciobanu – https://www.sor.ro/pasarile-si-vascul-o-relatie-bazata-pe-interese-reciproce/

Linkuri utile

© 2024 · Toate drepturile rezervate. Antropoflora.com