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)

Advertisements

How Do You Know When Spring Has Arrived In Geneva? Check The Chestnut In Old Town

How do you know spring has arrived?  Flowers, spring showers, sundresses or swimming in the lake?  In Geneva’s old town, there is a tree, a chestnut, that is the official harbinger of spring.  Well, maybe it’s only the quasi-official harbinger, but it’s good enough.  In Geneva’s Old Town, on the Promenade de la Treille, is a tree whose first bud marks the official arrival of spring (Marronnier Officiel).  It’s known as “l’eclosion” which translates as “the hatching” or “the blooming” but in this case means “the budding.”

The first bud was charted since 1808!  It has always come sometime between January and the beginning of April, varying considerably (but generally getting progressively earlier).  This year, it arrived on March 13!  It’s official, spring is here.

Since observations began, several trees have been used.  The original from 1818  to 1905, the second from until 1928,  and the current since 1929.  The current tree is so bent over that it has to be propped up with a pole.

In 1808, Marc-Louis Rigaud-Martin began recording the tree’s first bud, likely out of a kind of scientific curiosity.  Since 1818, all the dates have been recorded on a parchment-roll in a special place in Geneva’s State Council chamber.

Workers of the city stroll past the tree over periodically during the key months and even use binoculars to examine the tree in greater detail.  Once, an employee hastily returned from vacation during exceptionally warm weather to avoid missing it!  They know exactly where on the tree to look as the first buds always appear on the eastern side.

Our Favorite Trees In Geneva

Geneva has Platanus, planes, or plane trees.  They are a hybrid of a couple of different types of Sycamore trees.  These ornamental trees are common here in Europe.

Their umbrella like branches provide shade and line country roads, promenades and town squares.  If not pruned back, they can grow quite large.

Everyone who visits remarks on the trees.  The produce lush foliage, are majestic and lend an elegant air to the lakeside.  However, most visitors are intrigued by/interested in its bark, which has a mottled, scaly appearance.  Mature bark peels off in irregularly shaped patches.

Plane trees have a storied history along roadsides in this area.  Napoleon ordered their extensive planting on roadsides so that he could take advantage of their grand canopies to keep his marching army cool.

Unfortunately, a fungus is attacking them.  During WWII, US soldiers brought munition boxes made from a US version of the tree.  They carried with them a fungus that has been attacking the trees and has spread.

Geneva’s trees look unaffected.  They prune them back in the fall after their leaves have fallen.  With their interesting bark and elegant shape,  we like the look of them in winter too.  Heck, we like them in spring and fall as well.

 

Geneva’s Christmas Lights

Geneva waits to turn on its Christmas lights until December 1st.   Being Swiss, Geneva puts their decorations up way before the first, but waits until the official start of the holidays (no Thanksgiving there) to turn them on.   He loves Christmas lights and we would walk in the evenings hoping that this would be the night they were finally on.  We traveled most of December, but managed to see a bit of them.
Each time I see the cranes all lit up, I smile.  Thanks construction companies.  You add to my enjoyment of the holidays.  Clark W. Griswold would be proud of your exterior illumination.
I love it when the trees are completely covered in lights. The building is pretty cool too.
In general, I notice a lot more greenery, balls and lights in decorations over here.  Perhaps we haven’t been frequenting the right places, but I haven’t seen as many Santa’s, Snowmen and Nativity Scenes.  Just to be thorough, I haven’t seen any elves, angels or animals either. Not surprisingly, I haven’t seen Dickens’ era (British) or Currier and Ives (American) style decorations either.  No pictures of old-fashioned Christmases with carolers, ice skaters or sleighs.
They are festive, but elegant.  Oh yeah, I haven’t seen any houses done up like Clark W. Griswold’s either.  Now that we are back in the states, I am on it and will try to find some.