Don't kiss mistletoe goodbye just yet. This controversial holiday plant was recently linked to a study that claims it could benefit woodland life.
Mistletoe has a little bit of a bad rap. Sure, the plant is used to spur Christmas kisses during the holiday season and provides festive flair to holiday decor, but it can also be super invasive to gardens and forests. Mistletoe attaches to other trees and shrubs and sucks out all the nutrients, making it a parasitic plant that causes more woe than a cherry holiday ho, ho, ho.
The plant might be getting some redemption though. A recent Australian study
now says that mistletoe might be key in not only keeping a forest healthy, but might actually be able to help restore injured forests to a healthy balance, the New York Times reports
An experiment started in 2004 examined a small woods that was surrounded by farmland. David Watson, an ecologist at Charles Sturt University, decided that they needed to remove mistletoe from 17 woodlands and compare them with 11 woodlands where the mistletoe remained and 12 woodlands where the mistletoe did not already grow.
For anyone who's attempted to remove the parasitic plant, they know that it's no easy task. Removing the amount of mistletoe required for the study took a dozen people two seasons of work to complete. Over 40 tons of the plant were removed.
Three years after the mistletoe was removed,they found that animal and insect diversity decreased in areas where the plant was absent and increased in areas where the mistletoe was present.
Mistletoe drops leaves three to four times the amount as the trees that they are living off of, but unlike the trees who use all the nutrients in the leaves before letting them fall, the mistletoe leaves still have some nutrients in them. These fallen leaves feed wildlife on the forest floor and encourages animal diversity.
Dr. Watson claims that it might be possible to restore the health of damaged forests by introducing mistletoe into the population, but this theory is still a little controversial given the parasitic nature of the plant.Read more about popular mistletoe woes.