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Dec 21 2011

Botanical Wednesday: Festively parasitic

How appropriate that one of the symbols of the season should be a parasite.

(Also on Sb)

17 comments

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  1. 1
    Rumtopf

    Woo and yay :D My favourite holiday plant!

  2. 2
    Richard Smith

    So, did you decide to post a picture of Mistletoe before or after picking Holly’s entry for the day’s atheist post..?

  3. 3
    Ant (@antallan)

    So, first a post from Holly, then a post about mistletoe…

    I see what you did there!

    /@

  4. 4
    Zeno

    Hmm. Subtle hint? Looks like PZ wants a kiss.

  5. 5
    Dick the Damned

    Festively parasitic, eh. Yes, quite darned pretty. And religion can be pretty too, but they’re both parasitic, & poisonous.

  6. 6
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ OP

    … a parasite.

    Not at all, those are the sexual organs of the tree. The promise of new life etc. What did they teach you in science class?

    (As Dr. Getafix will tell you, the sap contains the essence of the mighty oak. If you want supreme strength, you need to make a potion using this stuff.)

  7. 7
    robb

    all hail Satan Claus!

  8. 8
    Glen Davidson

    How appropriate that one of the symbols of the season should be a parasite.

    You mean Easter season?

    Glen Davidson

  9. 9
    Glen Davidson

    I got curious about mistletoe evolution, since it’s not so obvious how a plant would begin putting its roots into a limb high above the ground. First, it should be noted that there are various “mistletoes” (five clades are known, I believe) that have evolved independently, then it seems that most, if not all, began as root parasites:

    How did mistletoes become aerial parasites? Two scenarios seem possible. Firstly, they could have climbed trees first, then become parasites. In other words, mistletoes could have evolved from free-living ancestors which were epiphytic on tree branches in humid forests. Alternatively, they could have become parasites first, then climbed trees. In other words, mistletoes could have evolved from terrestrial root-parasites by somehow adapting as parasites on tree branches.

    All of the available evidence supports the second hypothesis. Among the order Santalales, to which the different groups of mistletoes belong, the least specialized, presumably ancestral members are free-living trees and shrubs. However the order also includes derived genera which are terrestrial root-parasitic trees and shrubs…

    More at http://www.anbg.gov.au/mistletoe/evolution-origin.html

    Unless, of course, the Designer, praise his name (whatever it is, hee hee), of P. falciparum as thoughtfully designed plant parasites.

    Glen Davidson

  10. 10
    peterh

    A nod to The Golden Bough – with a nod to Sir James Frazer.

  11. 11
    lobotomy

    And speaking of parasites…

    Mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum) is also the State Floral Emblem of our beloved state of Oklahoma. How appropriate.

  12. 12
    mkramm

    Why isn’t it green and where are the white berries?

  13. 13
    Chris Booth

    Balder! Duck!!

  14. 14
    davidct

    I would have thought that the seasonable parasites would look more like clergy.

  15. 15
    Nerdette

    My favorite part about mistletoe are the insects that rely on it, such as the Kiss-Me-Now Weevil.

  16. 16
    Goecke Chuck

    If you ever pick some of the white berries of mistletoe and squeeze them between you fingers, your find the reason the Pagan Europeans considered Mistletoe a fertility symbol. The sticky thick white berry juice will make you grab for an old sock to wipe it off! Birds eating the berries also get that feeling, but they have to use a tree branch.

  17. 17
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    You have warmed my cold and stony heart, you rascal.

    Glen Davidson:

    First, it should be noted that there are various “mistletoes” (five clades are known, I believe) that have evolved independently, then it seems that most, if not all, began as root parasites.

    Astute. All five clades arose from root parasites in the order Santalales*. The phylogenetic basis of that statement can be found here:

    Nickrent, D.L., V. Malécot, R. Vidal-Russell, and J.P. Der. 2010. A revised classification of Santalales. Taxon 59(2): 538-558.

    *Completely happenstance that the Christmas misteltoe belongs to such a festively named order. Sandalwood (Santalum) is a parasitic tree of this order.

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