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Home » Santa Clarita News » Environment » SCV Outdoor Report » SCV Outdoor Report: A Prelude To A Kiss

SCV Outdoor Report: A Prelude To A Kiss

By Wendy Langhans.

Mistletoe is a parasite and needs host trees, like this California Sycamore, to order to survive.

That’s what most people think when they see mistletoe hanging over the door.  Any person standing under the mistletoes is fair game – you could be kissed by anyone – from Great Aunt Elvah to that “certain special someone”.  It’s all quite random.


But to naturalists, mistletoe is more than a haphazard prelude to a kiss and it’s anything but random.  Mistletoe can’t grow just anywhere.  It’s a hemiparasite, a plant that can photosynthesize its own store of energy-laden carbohydrates but requires a host plant to provide water, mineral nutrients and some carbohydrates. 


Not only is mistletoe a parasite, but it’s a CHOOSEY parasite.  Most species of mistletoe are specific about the species of tree or shrub they infect – each of the twelve species of dwarf mistletoe in California specializes in one to a few conifers and the seven species of American mistletoe specialize in broad-leaved trees.  (And I suspect that mistletoe contributes to the health of the forest ecosystem in ways we have yet to understand.  Nature is more subtle than we realize.)


Mistletoe is also CHOOSEY when it comes to reproduction.  Many plants are monoecious, with male and female flowers on the same plant.  But mistletoe is dioecious, which means each plant is either male or female, but not both. 


Mistletoe plants have either male or female flowers, but not both.

And mistletoe is CHOOSEY when the time comes to scatter its seeds.  Not all birds are attracted to the 1/4” white-pink berries.  But perching birds are.  They fly from tree to tree, eating the mistletoe berries, perching on the tree branches and excreting the undigested seeds.  These seeds have a sticky, viscous coating, which helps them stick to the tree branch, and when conditions are right, germinate and send their root-like haustauria into the tree.


So you see, there’s nothing really random at all about mistletoe.  But please don’t tell my husband.  You see, he first kissed me under the mistletoe at a New Year’s Eve party, almost 30 years ago.  To this day, he thinks it was just a happy coincidence.  Or so he says.


Upcoming Outdoor Events:


Saturday, Dec. 29, 7:00 AM – 1:00 PM Santa Clarita Valley.

Save the date for the Audubon Society’s 108th Annual Christmas Bird Count
Meet at 7:00 AM at Western Bagel in the "Big Kmart" parking lot, corner of Valencia Blvd. and San Fernando Rd.23170 W. Valencia Blvd., Santa Clarita, CA 91355. The address is:

Link for more information:


Saturday, Dec. 29.  Placerita Canyon

Family Nature Walk (11:00 am – 12:00 pm)
An easy, 1-hour walk exploring the area’s natural and cultural history.

Animal Demonstration (1:00 pm – 2:00 pm)
See, learn and ask questions about live native animals of the area.

Link for map and directions:


Saturday, Jan. 5, 8:30AM.  Pico Canyon (Mentryville).  An 8 mile R/T hike from Mentryville to Odeen #1. 

Link for map:

Sponsored by the Community Hiking Club.

Link for more information:


Tuesday, Jan. 8, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM.  Placerita Canyon.

Our annual docent-naturalist training begins Tuesday, January 8th, 2008. This is a 9-week program meeting on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9AM to Noon. No previous experience is necessary to take the course.

Link for more information:




You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.


For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, go to

SCV Outdoor Report: A Prelude To A Kiss

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