Monday, May 4, 2009

A New Look At Mistletoe

One of the great things about homeschooling is getting to learn alongside my children! Today Mary Margaret asked how Dandelion flowers grow everywhere if we don't plant them. We read a neat book, called How Seeds Travel, by Cynthia Overbeck. The book is great at explaining the mechanisms by which seeds travel from place to place. I found out a lot of information about seeds that I didn't know before. Here is an excerpt from page 38 on Mistletoe:

One fruit, that of the Mistletoe, is distributed by birds in a very unusual way. Mistletoe plants grow on the trunks ans branches of trees such as the Oak and the Hack berry. Mistletoe is a parasite;that is, it gets all its nourishment from the tree on which it grows. Its roots grow right into he tree's trunk or branches and draw out the food the Mistletoe needs. A Mistletoe seed can take root only if it lands on a tree. If it lands on the ground, it will die.

Birds help to make sure that the Mistletoe seed land in the right place. Some birds like to eat the little round fruits of the Mistletoe. But the seeds inside the fruits are covered with a substance that makes them stick to the birds' beaks as they eat the fruit. To get the seeds off, the birds have to wipe their beaks against the bark. Often the seeds stay there and take root.

Sometimes a Mistletoe seed is swallowed by the bird along with the fruit. But the seed can go through the digestive tract and not lose its stickiness. Then it may come out in the bird's droppings and stick to the tree branches as it falls. (emphasis mine-what I find so fascinating!)

Gives a whole new meaning to "kissing under the Mistletoe," doesn't it?