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Viscum album (mistletoe)

One of the most well-known evergreens, the mistletoe has inspired fascination throughout history, and is held in esteem for its medicinal and perceived magical properties.
Forked stems and white berries of mistletoe

Typical shoot of a female plant of Viscum album showing ripe fruit and flower buds. (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Viscum album L.

Common name: 

mistletoe, European mistletoe, European white-berry mistletoe, common mistletoe, all-heal, masslin.

Conservation status: 

Rated by IUCN as of Least Concern (LC). Local but common in the UK.


Partially parasitic, growing on several woody hosts.

Key Uses: 

Festive decoration, medicinal.

Known hazards: 

Mistletoe leaves, stems and berries can be poisonous to humans if ingested, and pets such as dogs are also at risk when mistletoe is brought indoors.


Genus: Viscum

About this species 

This partially parasitic species is well-known for its waxy white berries and in Europe is strongly associated with Christmas. It is highly sought-after for use as a winter decoration and there is a long-held tradition of kissing underneath bunches of mistletoe.

In the UK, mistletoe grows most commonly on apple trees, lime and poplar, but also on blackthorn, hawthorn, rowan and willow, and depends on birds to disperse its seeds. Its white fruits contain a sticky pulp that may either cling to a bird's bill or else pass through its gut unharmed. When the seeds are voided, or the bird wipes the pulp off against a branch, the mistletoe seeds are dispersed. Mistle thrushes and blackcaps commonly eat the fruits, the association with the former being the possible origin of the common name of this plant. 


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