Ah, mistletoe. That mischievous, pretty plant. That dangling signifier of festive holiday romance. That… toxic, awful parasite? That’s right, mistletoe is actually terrible, and not just when it’s sticking out of your “hilarious” brother-in-law’s belt buckle.
Mistletoe Is… Poisonous
Several species of mistletoe contain poisonous ingredients called phoratoxin and viscotoxin which, if consumed, can cause drowsiness, blurred vision, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weakness and even seizures — a bit like eggnog, only worse.
That’s not to say you’ll fall over dead if you eat a few berries or leaves: A seven-year analysis of data from the American Association of Poison Control Center found that only 4 percent of 1,754 mistletoe exposures (92 percent of which, unsurprisingly, involved children) became symptomatic. Of that 4 percent, there were no mortalities — only incidences of gastrointestinal irritation.
Still, it’s apparently not worth the risk to kiss the stuff itself.
Mistletoe Is… Gross
Despite its jolly connotations, mistletoe is, in reality, a parasite that stays green all winter long by leaching water and minerals from trees and shrubs. (One genus of mistletoe is aptly called Phoradendron, which is Greek for “thief of the tree.”) This process slowly drains the host plant of life, causing breakage and deformities. Once it spreads to most of a plant’s branches, both the host and the parasite will die.
Are you feeling the holiday spirit yet?
Mistletoe Is… Creepy
Experts can’t agree on why people began kissing under the mistletoe, but it’s known that the plant used to be associated with fertility, and for reasons that aren’t the least bit subtle: Certain species of mistletoe have large berries that secrete an extremely sticky white fluid, while others spread their seeds by exploding pornographically (the dwarf mistletoe is capable of launching seeds as far as 50 feet).
The gooey substance/erupting seeds combo is so blatantly sexual, we’re not even sure if this footage is SFW:
Now that you’re thoroughly disgusted (or curiously turned on — no judgments here), let’s take a hard look at mistletoe for what it really is: a toxic plant that slowly slurps the life out of its innocent victims, then proceeds to jizz all over them.
Who’s ready for a Christmas kiss?