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Viscum album
Viscum album growing on a Populus species
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Santalales
Family: Santalaceae
Genus: Viscum
Species: V. album
Binomial name
Viscum album

Viscum album[1] is a species of mistletoe, the species originally so-named, and also known as European Mistletoe or Common Mistletoe to distinguish it from other related species. It is native to Europe and western and southern Asia.

It is a hemi-parasitic shrub, which grows on the stems of other trees. It has stems 30–100 centimetres (12–39 in) long with dichotomous branching. The leaves are in opposite pairs, strap-shaped, entire, leathery textured, 2–8 centimetres (0.79–3.1 in) long , 0.8–2.5 centimetres (0.31–0.98 in) broad and are a yellowish-green in colour. This species is dioecious and the flowers are inconspicuous, yellowish-green, 2–3 millimetres (0.079–0.12 in) diameter. The fruit is a white or yellow berry containing one (very rarely several) seed embedded in the very sticky, glutinous fruit pulp.

It is commonly found in the crowns of broad-leaved trees, particulary apple, lime, hawthorn and poplar.[2]

Several subspecies are commonly accepted[3][4][5][6]. They differ in fruit colour, leaf shape and size, and most obviously in the host trees utilised.

  • Viscum album subsp. abietis (Wiesb.) Abromeit. Central Europe. Fruit white; leaves up to 8 centimetres (3.1 in). On Abies.
  • Viscum album subsp. album. Europe, southwest Asia east to Nepal. Fruit white; leaves 3–5 centimetres (1.2–2.0 in). On Malus, Populus, Tilia, and less often on numerous other species, including (rarely) Quercus.
  • Viscum album subsp. austriacum (Wiesb.) Vollmann. Fruit yellow; leaves 2–4 centimetres (0.79–1.6 in). Central Europe. On Larix, Pinus, Picea.
  • Viscum album subsp. meridianum (Danser) D.G.Long. Southeastern Asia. Fruit yellow; leaves 3–5 centimetres (1.2–2.0 in). On Acer, Carpinus, Juglans, Prunus, Sorbus.
  • Viscum album subsp. creticum has recently been described from eastern Crete [7] Fruit white; leaves short. On Pinus brutia.
  • Viscum album subsp. coloratum Kom. is treated by the Flora of China[4] as a distinct species Viscum coloratum (Kom) Nakai.


Similar Species

Witches' Broom looks similar but is an abnormal growth of the tree.


Mistletoe is an ingredient of pomace brandy based liquor biska made in Istra, Croatia.


The toxic lectin Viscumin has been isolated from Viscum album.[8] Viscumin is a cytotoxic protein that binds to galactose residues of cell surface glycoproteins and may be internalised by endocytosis.[9] Viscumin strongly inhibits protein synthesis by inactivating the 60 S ribosomal subunit.[8][9]

Mythology and symbolism

Mistletoe has always attracted popular interest and has been surrounded by a number of myths and legends. In some countries it plays a part in Christmas festivities. It also features in the popular Asterix comic books, where mistletoe collected from oaks was considered to have special qualities.





  1. ^ D. Zuber (2004). Biological flora of Central Europe: Viscum album L. Flora 199, 181-203
  2. ^ Tree News, Spring/Summer 2005,Publisher Felix Press, [[1]]
  3. ^ Flora Europaea: Viscum album
  4. ^ a b Flora of China: Viscum album
  5. ^ Bean, W. J. (1980). Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles 8th ed. 4: 725-726. ISBN 0-7195-2428-8
  6. ^ Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). The Illustrated Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-40170-2.
  7. ^ Böhling, N., Greuter, W., Raus, T., Snogerup, B., Snogerup, S. & Zuber, D. (2003). Notes on the Cretan mistletoe, Viscum album subsp. creticum subsp. nova (Loranthaceae/Viscaceae). Israel J. Pl. Sci. 50 (Suppl.): 77-84.
  8. ^ a b Olsnes S, Stirpe F, Sandvig K, Pihl A (November 1982). "Isolation and characterization of viscumin, a toxic lectin from Viscum album L. (mistletoe)". The Journal of Biological Chemistry 257 (22): 13263–70. PMID 7142144. Retrieved 2009-06-22.  
  9. ^ a b Stirpe F, Sandvig K, Olsnes S, Pihl A (November 1982). "Action of viscumin, a toxic lectin from mistletoe, on cells in culture". The Journal of Biological Chemistry 257 (22): 13271–7. PMID 7142145. Retrieved 2009-06-22.  

General references

  1. Flora of Pakistan: Viscum album
  2. Viscum album subsp. creticum
  3. Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening 4: 676. ISBN 0-333-47494-5


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Viscum album


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Unassigned core eudicots
Ordo: Santalales
Familia: Santalaceae
Genus: Viscum
Species: Viscum album


Viscum album L.


  • Species Plantarum 2:1023. 1753
  • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. [1]

Vernacular names

日本語: ヤドリギ
Svenska: Mistel
Türkçe: Ökseotu
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Viscum album on Wikimedia Commons.


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