Mistletoe

Mistletoe, found in places globally, is a fascinating symbol of co-adaptation between plants and seed spreading birds and animals. The mistletoe is a parasitic plant that attaches itself to certain trees and relies upon the mistletoe bird to eat its fruit and pass the seeds.

The digestive system of the mistletoe bird also seems to be suited to the plant, in that some of the sticky flesh of the fruit stays on the seed so that when it is passed, it becomes attached to a tree branch where it will germinate. How’s that for something with surprise origins? (That also involves kissing under!)

Mistletoe is quite specific regarding the host trees it will thrive upon. These include acacias and eucalypts. Often, the mistletoe will also closely resemble the leaves of its host tree, blending in unnoticed to all but an acute observer.

As a native symbol, this ability to blend into one’s environment may be a practice you could develop. Or maybe you need to be more observant to things that are out of pattern, yet blend into what is around you in your environment that would otherwise pass unobserved. You could relate this to a negative persistent thought pattern that attaches itself to the unconscious part of your mind and replays itself. It blends in so well in with your mental chatter you don’t notice it until you become aware that something different or “not you” is present.

All mistletoe plants have a sticky flesh, which varies in sweetness. The Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory were known to consume the fruit after throwing away the skin and spitting out the seeds. As it grows throughout Australia, is also quite likely it was eaten in other areas as well.

Something in your life brings sweetness with the edible qualities of this plant – so stick to it! Without its sticky qualities, this plant would not germinate in the trees. Going thru a little “crap” is part of the process!

It was believed by some tribal groups that the red flower of the mistletoe represented the blood of unborn children. If a woman wished to become pregnant, she would stand under the mistletoe so a spirit child would ‘drop’ into her. Very similar to the Western belief of standing under the mistletoe at Christmas for a kiss!

I also wish to share a personal story here about the time I found a mistletoe  bird fledgling. I was outside when I heard this amazing singing, trills and minarets, it was entrancing and magic! I saw it came from a plain little bird sitting on the fence, hopping about, a tone of urgency evident in it’s voice. I looked on the ground, and there was the baby! I was worried it would fly next door and be eaten by the dog, so I gently picked it up and put it in the mango tree. It was getting dark, and looked like rain that night, so I kept a close eye on it. The baby bird tried to fly towards the mother, but became stuck on the ground. Again I was concerned it would fly next door, so I picked it up, placed it in a box (feeling so sad for the mother) and rang the local animal wildlife carers. Following their advice, I fed the baby, kept it in a safe place overnight, and put it back in the tree the next morning. It faithfully chirped for half an hour before Dad appeared – a very different looking bird to the mother – flaming red, with black and grey-white – a very showy fellow! He fed the baby, and soon after Mum appeared. In stages and with both parents, baby bird flew off to a nearby eucalyptus tree.

The mistletoe bird is a perfect mate for mistletoe, reflecting the reds of the mistletoe flowers. Their colloquial name is flowerpecker… a name as quaint as the birds themselves. Mistletoe, mistletoe bird and host tree are all entwined in a web of life – just made for each other!

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