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Lambert: Livestock committee to elect officers, prepare for Rate of Gain contest

 
 
Posted on 12/29/2017, 1:00 AM

The Saline County 4-H Livestock Committee will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 3, at the Extension office. All Livestock Committee members (newly appointed members from each club) and the public are invited to attend.

Agenda items include electing officers and superintendents, setting dates for the beef, swine, meat goat, and lamb weigh-ins for the Rate of Gain contest, discussing the livestock auction, and reviewing livestock pages for the 2018 Saline County 4-H Handbook.

See you there!

Mistletoe legend

Decorating with mistletoe has been a holiday tradition for many centuries in North America and Europe. It begs the question: Why do we have this strange tradition that prompts friends, family and even enemies to kiss when they meet underneath mistletoe?

"Perhaps you have been one of the lucky, or unlucky, few who has found yourself under the mistletoe for a kiss," University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Chris Enroth said.

It is widely accepted that the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe began in the 16th century, but the history of the plant goes back much farther than that. Mistletoe is considered one of the most magical, mysterious and sacred plants in European folklore.

It was used in ancient times, centuries before the birth of Christ, by Druid tribes living in what is considered modern-day Great Britain. In fact, the plant was so sacred to the ancient Druids that if two enemies met under the mistletoe, they would lay down their weapons and exchange greetings. Druid priests would harvest mistletoe with a golden knife and pass it around to celebrate the new year.

Mistletoe was banned from Christian ceremonies for many years because of its pagan origin, but Christian leaders eventually incorporated the plant into decorations and celebrations to draw in the old tribes of Britain and Europe.

The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe began in 1520 when William Irving wrote, "A young man should pluck a berry each time he kisses a young girl beneath the hanging plant, and once the berries were gone the romantic power of the plant faded." Hence, many gentlemen sought mistletoe cuttings with an abundance of berries to hang in their homes.

"In addition to its interesting history, mistletoe is also an interesting plant," Enroth said.

It is a true parasite and grows as an evergreen in a variety of trees. It is common in apple trees, poplars, lindens and willow. Mistletoe draws water and nutrients from its host. Although it typically does not kill the tree outright, it weakens it to the point of shortening the host's life span, making it vulnerable to other pests and disease.

"There are many different species of mistletoe," Enroth said. "The species celebrated in ancient texts and used in European celebrations is the European mistletoe, whose scientific name is Viscum album."

Mistletoe native to North America falls into the genus Phoradendron. It is the mistletoe commonly sold in the United States.

"You may have success finding mistletoe in Southern Illinois. With the warming climate, we have seen southern plant species begin to creep northward," Enroth said.

Most commercially harvested mistletoe grows in Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. Mistletoe is toxic; ingesting berries in large amounts can be lethal, so keep it out of reach of children and pets, or hang artificial mistletoe.

The name mistletoe translates directly to English as dung-on-a-twig, as ancient tribes thought the plant germinated sporadically from bird droppings. Since dung-on-a-twig does not lend itself to the plant's romantic legend, Enroth said, let's stick with calling it mistletoe.

• NANCY LAMBERT is Saline County 4-H program coordinator.