Artwork of the Day – Mistletoe


Liverpool artwork of the day – Friday December 21 2007. Botanical print of mistletoe, Latin name Viscum album in the drawings collection at World Museum Liverpool.

Another image from the NML online advent calendar.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant, which means that it grows on other plants, usually trees or shrubs. It grows most commonly on apple trees but also on oak, blackthorn, hawthorn, lime, poplar, rowan and willow. It occurs from east Devon to Yorkshire, and is particularly common in central and southern England and around London.
Traditions and customs

Mistletoe has long been held in esteem for its medicinal and magical properties. Many traditions and customs have arisen from the beliefs in the power of the plant. Druids used it as an aphrodisiac and in Scandinavian tales it symbolises peace and love.

Some saw the parasitic nature of the plant as more of a symbiosis, with the mistletoe believed to help keep the host alive during the long winter months. This led to it becoming a symbol for friendship which probably led eventually to our modern tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. Until the arrival of Christmas trees, the kissing bough held centre stage at Christmas when a berry was plucked with each kiss until none were left.

This botanical print, which is not currently on display, is from the prints and drawings collection of the botany section at World Museum Liverpool. These collections are a valuable resource for the identification and study of plant biodiversity past, present and future.