A Little Mistletoe History

The Facts: Botanically speaking, mistletoe is a ‘hemiparasite,’ which means it’s capable of producing its own food by photosynthesis but often/also sends out roots that penetrate the branches or trunk of the host tree in order to steal nutrients. Because it’s an evergreen that cozies up in deciduous trees, we notice it more often in the winter time once host tree leaves have fallen. The seeds are spread through bird droppings – sometimes it is so high up in trees it gets “harvested” by shotgun! .

The Folklore: So how did a parasite become a symbol and tradition during holiday festivities? Some say the answer lies in Norse Mythology. In ancient Scandinavia, if enemies met by chance beneath mistletoe in the forest, they would lay down their arms and hold a truce until the next day. This custom went hand-in-hand with the Norse myth or Baldur, whose mother, Frigga, made every object, animal and plant promise not to harm her son except mistletoe, which she overlooked. After a Norse god killed Baldur, with a spear fashioned from mistletoe that brought winter into the world, his mother declared the plant sacred. Baldur was eventually resurrected and Frigga ordered that any two people passing beneath it must celebrate Baldur’s life by kissing.

The Footnote??: In more recent history, Washington Irving wrote about a now often-overlooked aspect of the mistletoe tradition in a footnote of “Christmas Eve”

“The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.” 

Those berries, by the way, probably shouldn’t be eaten. Quite a few sources say they are poisonous despite the fact that they have long been considered an aphrodisiac.

Raising Funds for Reforestation

Brendan Chareoncharutkun, one of our inaugural-season farmers at the Public Health Garden, has been studying Permaculture at Tacome Pai Organic Farm in Thailand this summer and touched base with us from “the land of smiles” to see if we could help promote the fundraising campaign for Tacome Pai’s sister project: The New Land.

We said: “ABSOLUTELY!!”

They’ve got until September 30th to raise the remainder of the $5,200 fundraising goal. With that funding, they aim to revitalize 72,000 square meters of deforested and degraded land by applying Permaculture design principles. The long-term mission of the project is to demonstrate and reintroduce sustainable living techniques to the locals and to create a prototype for reforestation and sustainable livelihood projects all over the world. Read more here and please join us in making a pledge.

Happy Earth Day!

Hope everyone is having a beautiful Earth Week and has something enviro-friendly planned for the weekend to celebrate Earth Day. In case not, here are some local happenings:

The Science Center’s Earth Day celebration on Saturday: There will be container-garden making with Baltimore Contained, herb cooking with Carrie Murray Nature Center, experiments with the American Chemical Society and plenty more eco-awesomeness with local green groups.More info can be found on the Science Center’s site here: http://mdsci.org/events-calendar/events/EarthDay.html

Severna Park Earth Day on Saturday: http://severnapark.patch.com/articles/9th-annual-earth-day-expo-at-spms#pdf-9379365 Where the Eco-Goats will be!

Localize It: Baltimore Free Farm Block Party on Sunday: The second annual block party celebrating the value of local artists, musicians, food and social movements at its flagship project, the Ash Street Garden in Hampden. The event will include local craft and food vendors, street performers, live music and family activities. The block party’s special attraction is ChiliBrew V, a home-brew competition and chili cook-off organized by BaltiBrew. More info can be found on their website http://www.baltimorefreefarm.org/2012/03/11/localize-it-ii/

If you aren’t local, check out the Earth Day Network for information about events near you!

Maryland Arbor Day Festivities: Wednesday 4/4/2012

The University of Maryland’s annual Arbor Day observance is an integral part of UMCP’s Tree Campus USA participation. The University of Maryland will celebrate tomorrow, April 4th, from 11;30am-noon with a ceremonial tree planting at Rossborough Inn. The ceremony features campus representatives including Dr. Loh and remarks about Arbor Day and the campus arboretum.

While you are there, take a look at the rejuvenated Rossborough Inn landscape planted through a service project with the local and student chapters of the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS).

For more fun factoids about trees, check out the Urban Tree Benefits post from last year. Also, be sure and cast your vote for the University of Maryland in the Arbor Day Now tree grant contest.