Last week, while we were in those days of school break after Christmas, my son asked what is mistletoe and where does it come from. I told him I would work with him to learn more this week.
The next day I received my regular email from eNature, and one of the topics highlighted was mistletoe! I love it! I learned that mistletoe (a.k.a. "phoradendrun") is a "semi-parasite". From their website:
it’s a semi-parasitic shrub which grows on other trees. Although able to photosynthesize its own nutrients, mistletoe relies on its host for most of its nutrients. The plant draws its mineral and water needs, and some of its energy needs, from the host tree using a specialized root called a haustorium, which grows into the stem of the host.
I thought this was all very interesting. I thought I read that it grows on oak trees. (Now I am not able to find such a claim. Maybe I dreamed it.) I thought it would be fun to set out and try to find some. I knew where there were some old-growth oak trees. We got in the car and set out to find some. We went to a local park where I hoped we'd find some.It was cold. The sun was in our eyes. His eyes were tearing up from the cold, and his allergies were bothering him. I gave him a tissue.
Dad said we can use the binoculars for our nature walks, so that was a great blessing.
Phoradendron is a hemiparasite, meaning that it produces its own chlorophyll, but relies on the host plant to provide water and essential elements for growth and survival.
We tried, but on today's walk we could not find any. We found squirrel nests...
We heard birds. I said, "Shhh... listen... do you hear that?"
He said, "That's a cardinal."
I said, "How about that one?"
He said, "That's a cardinal, too."
I said, "Did you hear that?"
He said, "Oh, that's a nuthatch."
I said, "No kidding?"
We also saw downy woodpeckers, and an elusive bird we could get nowhere near that looked like one we haven't identified yet.
From another website (in UK),
The main host plants are apple, hawthorn, lime and poplar trees, although mistletoe is occasionally seen on maple, sycamore, willow, crab apples, false acacia, ash, oak, plum, rowan and even cotoneaster. Mistletoe is much more common in gardens, orchards and parks than in wild areas, which is encouraging to those wanting to grow their own.
Seriously? So why was I tramping around in the wilds looking for it?... ::sigh::
Oh, and I learned that cedar waxwings like the mistletoe berries. I thought we would use the rest of January to hunt for mistletoe. Then I got the Outdoor Hour Challenge newsletter for January. It says the January focus is rocks and minerals. Humph. I think our January focus might be birds and mistletoe, and maybe trees that host mistletoe.
But we'll see. It is just so cold out there right now that I can't think very well about hunting around for rocks. We'll see what "the boy" wants to get out of these walks.