I’ve Been Hanging Around The Mistletoe. Want Proof? Here’s A Top 10 List.

We’ve noticed these balls of leaves in the trees since we moved to Switzerland.  It’s all over the place here.  Only after a year did I lean what they were… mistletoe!   With Christmas fast approaching, I thought it was the perfect time to talk about these strange green balls.

The top ten things you may not have know Mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens or Viscum album):

1.  It is a parasitic plant whose roots invade a tree’s bark, allowing the mistletoe to absorb the tree’s nutrients.   Sometimes, it harms a tree and causing deformities in the branches, but it’s not in the mistletoe’s interest to kill its host.  If its tree dies, it dies.

2.  Mistletoe isn’t a complete drain on the host tree (usually oak, apple, hawthorn, or poplar).  Its small green leaves give the host plant with energy through photosynthesis.

3.  Mistletoe is aggressive.  A mistletoe plant to grow on top of another mistletoe plant.  It’s also “aggressive” to your digestive system so don’t eat the berries…regardless of how many glasses of Egg Nog you’ve consumed.

4.  Birds, however, eat Mistletoe’s berries and well, everybody poops.  Eventually, they eventually leave their droppings where they hang out, on tree branches.  Their droppings contain the seeds (which have a sticky coating), which sprout their roots into the tree branch.

5.  Although it’s a European plant, birds travel.  It grows down the eastern Atlantic  coast of the United States, from New Jersey to Florida.

6.   You can grow your own.  Click on this link if you want to indulge your inner Martha Stewart.

7.  Kissing.  Smooching.  Tonsil Hockey.  Snogging.  While it’s got as much credibility as an urban myth, why tempt fate?  Legend has it that couples who kiss underneath the mistletoe will have good luck (for the traditionally minded marriage and a long, happy life together), but standing underneath it and not doing so is bad luck.  In any case, it’s the perfect excuse for a little PDA…and to invite George Clooney to your holiday festivities.

8.  Although American’s know Mistletoe from Christmas Carols, other cultures saw it as a much more powerful symbol.  Ancient Druids used it for performing miracles (perhaps I should climb a tree and get myself some), providing fertility, to healing diseases and protecting people from witchcraft.  Yep.  I definitely need to get me some. especially since…

9.  Britain’s Druids weren’t the only ones who were hip to  its powers.   Vikings believed mistletoe had the power to raise humans from the dead!   When the Zombie apocalypse starts, you know the cause…

10.  Oh yeah, and the Bieb’s like’s it so much that he sings about it.  Here’s a link to Justin Bieber’s song Mistletoe on YouTube.  Happy Holidays!

Justin Bieber at the 2010 White House Easter E...

Justin Bieber at the 2010 White House Easter Egg roll. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Pilanesberg

Pilanesburg Game Reserve is different from the rest of the area because it was made from a volcano millions of years ago.  While in the park, you only notice its incredible beauty.  From the air, you can see its volcanic origins. 
Unlike Kruger, Pilanesburg has only been open since 1979.  It is known for it’s natural beauty.  We spent a day driving through the park looking at wildlife.  I wrote about seeing lions up close, but we saw lots of other animals too.  The elephants were a favorite.  The are massive animals, but they aren’t gruff.  Their depth of feeling is immediately apparent.  We saw a few solitary males.
How did we find the elephants?  When we drove around, our guide looked for signs of them.  The park’s big, so seeing them was not guaranteed.  We saw big piles of fresh poo, indicating elephants are nearby (notice the dung beetles in the pictures below).  If you want to feel better about you job, dung beetles spend their days pushing giant balls of poo all over, including up hills.

Although they usually just stood there, I took a lot of pictures of the wildebeests because they look so striking.  We usually saw them in large groups.  You can see them playing follow the leader in one of the photos below.
Even when we didn’t see animals, we enjoyed the park’s amazing natural beauty.
We’d already seen giraffes at Bongwe and found them enchanting.  They were also favorites at Pilansberg.  Their personalities were delightful.  They were curious, social, engaging and a bit coy.
Zebras were everywhere.  At first, we took pictures of each one we saw.  By the end, we’d seen so many that we didn’t reach for the camera and joked about them being a buffet for other animals.  They are the only animal related to the horse that has never been domesticated.
How can you not fall in love with a baby Zebra?
This Rhino was pretty entertaining.  I wish I’d gotten him on video.  He walked over and rubbed himself all over a giant rock (The rock is at 10:00 in relation to Mr. Rhino).  Seeing animals interact with their surroundings in such a natural way was one of the big highlights of the day.

We heard all about how many rhinos are killed every year by hunters (for their heads an tusks) and the severe problems this presents for the survival of the species.  When we were in at Cabela’s in the US, I felt entirely differently about the owner after I saw a photo of him with the rhino he’d killed.

The hippos were surprisingly graceful for their size.  If you look closely, you can see the babies.  Even the babies were enormous.
The ostrich was entertaining, really funny and got close to our car.  He was not afraid.  If he had been, he could have run quite fast.   Their eggs are enormous and are sometimes decorated as souvenirs.
We loved seeing the baby warthogs.  Our guide told us that they were probably no more than two weeks old!
Not surprisingly in such a beautiful natural preserve, you saw lots of birds.  They had a covered pavilion by the pond/watering hole that would be a perfect place for birdwatching.
Pilansberg ruined zoos for us.  Seeing the animals just doesn’t compare to seeing them in their natural habitat.  There, you can really start to see their characteristics and personalities.  I think we just added “safari” to our bucket list.