What Else Happens Under the Mistletoe


Image: GETTY

Mistletoe Growth as an Indicator of Toxic Metal Contamination
Just in time for the Christmas season, the Julius-Kühn Institute, aka the German Federal Research Center for Cultivated Plants, brings us these interesting tidings: there's more going on under the mistletoe than just kissing. Scientists at JKI suggest that the amount of toxic metal contamination in soils can be known by looking at how much mistletoe is growing on the trees above. Factors such as the type and number of trees, the bird populations which spread seeds after eating the berries and microclimate can influence the growth of mistletoe. But a key determining factor in the proliferation of the holiday greenery is resistance of the trees to the mistletoe, which is actually a semiparasitic plant. Heavy metals present in soils lower the trees' resistance, with a correspondingly higher infestation by mistletoe.

Mistletoe Infestation Index
The research started in 2003, concluding just in time for the holidays five years later. Studies were conducted in Germany's Harz mountains, where lead, copper and zinc contamination remain as a legacy of the region's mining history. On polluted soils, up to 49% of the poplar trees have mistletoe growth, while only 9% of poplars in uncontaminated regions wear the festive decorations. The scientists are developing a "mistletoe infestation index" for use as an indicator of heavy metal contamination in soils.

We wonder what happens when mercury contaminated actor Jeremy Piven is under the mistletoe?

More on Mistletoe and Toxic Metals:
Mistletoes give away soil contamination
Sushigate: Jeremy Piven Leaves Show Due to Fishy Mercury Poisoning
More Than a Pretty Greenhouse- Kew Gardens research into herbal remedies
Mistletoe Meds Fight Cancer

Tags: Biodiversity | Christmas | Germany | Pollution

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