Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mistletoe & Holly

Mistletoe and holly are traditional Christmas decorations, but their decorative uses predate Christmas by centuries. Mistletoe, used in rituals by both Druids and ancient Greeks, is a parasitic plant that grows high in trees, usually oaks. We have some growing on one of our farms. Do you see it?

Look closer.

Or even closer.

Usually  it grows high in the tree on the outer edges of a slender limb, so forget trying to climb the tree or using a ladder to get it.

If you cut down the tree—or even cut off the limb, there'll be no more mistletoe. American mistletoe is parasitic. Seeds dropped by birds take root in the tree itself and the mistletoe draws its nutrients from the tree.

So how do you harvest mistletoe? Carefully. The best way is with a rifle. If you're a good shot, you should be able to shoot off a big enough piece for decorative purposes but still leave some growing.

Since I have very little mistletoe, I don't think I'll be using it as a decoration this year. However, I do have a huge holly tree in my backyard. Here's a close look:

And a look from a bit farther back (that's the old gazebo behind it):

And, just to give you an idea how big the tree is, here's the house in the background:

Sometimes, Spotz the barncat likes to "levitate" in the holly. Do you see her? (These pictures of Spotz in the holly tree were taken last year):

How does she get to ends of the branches without falling off?

Here's her secret: A wild grapevine grows through the holly tree. Spotz climbs the grapevine and sits in the spot where the several vines form a place to sit. 

I wonder if I can persuade Spotz to climb for mistletoe?

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Blogger Kimberly said...

That is a HUGE & beautiful holly tree! I never knew what mistletoe looked like growing in a tree until about 10 years ago. Someone here in Roanoke pointed it out to me. I don't think that I ever remember seeing any growing in Meadows of Dan. Maybe I just didn't know what I was looking for!

8:46 PM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

I used to shoot mistletoe down with a .22. That was when I was younger and my eyes were better. I doubt I could do that today.

7:20 AM  

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