Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Desert mistletoe

with 2 comments


The custom of kissing under mistletoe on Christmas, which some of you may have enjoyed yesterday, became popular in England in the 1700s and has spread to other English-speaking countries. While most Christmas traditions come from countries with cold winters, genera of mistletoe grow in warm climates, too. On our recent trip through the American Southwest, I was surprised at how common desert mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) is there and how conspicuous its hanging clusters of red fruits are in those dry surroundings. I saw this desert mistletoe in a paloverde tree (Parkinsonia spp.) at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum on November 7th.

And from earlier that morning in Tucson Mountain Park, here’s a closer look at some dense desert mistletoe branches and fruit.


Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 26, 2016 at 5:00 AM

2 Responses

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  1. I had no idea there was a mistletoe with red berries. I’ve only seen the white. And I didn’t know that kissing beneath a swag of mistletoe is considered by some to be a Christmas custom. I’ve only known it as a part of New Year celebrations. I must say, that bunch hanging from the paloverde is a far cry from the tiny bunches with a couple of twigs and a dozen berries that we used to buy in grocery stores.


    December 26, 2016 at 8:38 AM

    • The red-fruited mistletoe isn’t the kind that launched the Christmas tradition, but it fits in. Like you, I associated mistletoe with New Year’s Eve, but when I searched for information I found references to the Christmas tradition. Either way, I never bought any and many not even have known what mistletoe looks like till I got interested in native plants in central Texas in 1999.

      Desert mistletoe gives you one more incentive for a trip to the Southwest.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 26, 2016 at 10:34 AM

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