On the trails of San Diego County’s natural preserves and parks, look up into the trees for clumps of wild mistletoe, and pull your soul mate close for a kiss. Growing on limbs in small bouquets (dwarf variety) or in large hive-shaped clumps so shaggy they nearly take over the tree, mistletoe attaches itself to branches for its livelihood, living off the tree’s juices.
The Name’s Origin
Centuries ago, people noticed the plant grew where bird droppings landed. In Anglo Saxon, “mistletoe” means “dung on a twig.” People once believed life sprung from bird droppings. Of course, we later realized that birds eat fruits and berries, and their seed-rich droppings help propagate plants.
The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe comes from several ancient myths. Viking lore tells of mistletoe’s ability to conquer death. In short, the mother of Balder, the Viking god of summer sun, reversed a curse on him by kissing everyone who walked beneath the plant.
A first century story from Britain expounds mistletoe’s miraculous fertility powers for humans- – – and it is easy to make a connection between fertility and kissing!
Ancient legends aside, our modern culture recognizes the sprigs of green hanging overhead as an excuse to kiss. This holiday season, what better way to say “I love you” than to stroll hand-in-hand in San Diego’s beautiful wilderness areas? With the songs of birds and the hum of bees all around, pause beneath a patchwork-bark sycamore or other tree, look up into the branches for mistletoe, and lean close for a kiss.
See the box on the left for some of San Diego’s mistletoe-abundant trails. These areas and dozens more hikes are featured in Sheri McGregor’s new book: 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: San Diego. The latest most up to date guide since the 2003 firestorms ripped through San Diego, McGregor’s book covers North, South, and East Counties, and serves as your guide to San Diego trails and nearby activities.
Remember that mistletoe can be toxic, so follow the no-collection rule of area open spaces, and leave the plant for others to enjoy.
This December, take your lover’s hand and take a hike!