Mistletoe Tree ParasiteThere are many varieties of mistletoe. They grow as independent globular clusters in tree branches and some shrubs. As a result, mistletoe in trees becomes most visible in cold weather, when leaves fall. Although the plants largely subsist on nutrients produced by the host plant, mistletoe does produce some of its own food via photosynthesis. So officially it is a hemiparasite, which means half parasite.
It’s for the BirdsMistletoe serves as food for certain birds. Some eat the shoots and leaves, others the berries. The ‘seeds,’ coated with a sticky substance formed in the bird, are deposited on the bark of branches of the host. Germination produces tiny root-like structures that invade the host to withdraw nutrients from it.
Mistletoe’s Beneficent PresenceBirds are not limited to eating mistletoe berries solely. The same birds eat the berries of other plants. All the seeds, indiscriminately, are eliminated via the bird’s feces in the same area as the mistletoe host tree. This results in biodiversity. This is because different tree varieties invite different wildlife.
Health BenefitsWhat about direct benefits for humans? Research is ongoing, but studies suggest mistletoe has antioxidant potential for use in medicines and may find application in lowering blood sugar and cholesterol.
Also, mistletoe extracts may be useful in fighting cancer. Moronic acid, found in mistletoe, is being evaluated for suitability in fighting HIV and herpes simplex.
Note: You might also enjoy The Chocolate Alkaloid Theobromine
- Science Direct: Evaluation of Chemical Properties of Mistletoe Leaves…
- National Cancer Institute: Mistletoe Extracts…