I have always been fascinated by mistletoe,
and until I lived in the Shire, I had never seen any.
Last Christmas, I was in a shop that was selling sprigs of mistletoe,
so I could see it up close. The leaves are small, roundish, and greenish-gray,
and clusters of small white berries adorn the branches.
Mistletoe has an interesting cultural and linguistic history.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary,
mistletoe was harvested by the Druids for use in their religious ceremonies
because they thought it had magical powers.
In the 16th century,
a book of health advice suggested to the reader that
mistletoe was an herb which would, when applied to the head, draw out
"corrupt humours." The most powerful mistletoe,
and therefore the most desirable, was said to grow in oak trees.
The name "mistletoe" is derived from the Old English words mistle,
a variant of Old English mix or "dung"
and teanel ( pronounced tee-nal ) meaning "twig."
This is because mistletoe seeds are spread in bird droppings
which adhere to a tree's bark, and that's how the mistletoe
gets into the tree in the first place.
Sometimes, there is only one:
Sometimes there are two: