Holiday Plants: Lore, Legends, and Plant Science


From trees and wreaths to bulbs and cacti – plants are at the center of many holiday celebrations this year.  Many of these traditions come from ancient, pre-Christian rituals and religions that celebrate the solstice to commemorate that the darkness of winter is only temporary and the days will start getting lighter.  Over the last several years I’ve written articles about many different holiday plants and their history, lore, myths, and weird science facts.  Here’s a few of those holiday plants, some interesting facts, and links to articles to learn more.  Happy Holidays!

The Myth, the Legend, the Parasite: Romance, Lore, and Science beneath the Mistletoe

The Myth, the Legend, the Parasite: Romance, Lore, and Science beneath the Mistletoe

from: The Garden Professors blog (2018)

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that infects a wide variety of trees.  It’s role in holiday celebrations dates back to ancient druids who worshipped it and hung it over doors to keep away evil.  It plays a role in Norse mythology, where it was responsible for the death of Baldur, son of goddess Frigga (Fricka).  In her grief, she declares that the plant shall represent peace and love and her tears become the white berries of the plant.  Modern holiday celebrations play on the plant as a symbol of love, where anyone found beneath the mistletoe is the target for a kiss. Read more….

Image result for poinsettia

Podcast: Holiday Horticulture

from: GROBigRed (2017)

A chat with Nebraska Extension colleague John Fech about holiday horticultural traditions and how to make some decisions about the plants you get. Trees, poinsettias and more are featured! Listen…


Is Your Christmas Cactus an Impostor?

from: Urban Ag Guru (2014)

That Christmas cactus your aunt Sheila brought you has a secret – its an impostor!  Most of the holiday cacti you see at the store are the Thanksgiving cacti, as they bloom early during the holiday shopping season. Christmas cacti are a different species and aren’t all too common since they bloom too late to be sold as holiday decor.  Learn how to tell the difference!  Read more…. 

Poinsettia: More than Meets the Eye

from: Urban Ag Guru (2015)

One of the legends surrounding poinsettias is that of a little girl who picked weeds on her way to church at Christmas as the only gift she was able to give to the baby Jesus.  As she laid them at the altar, they turned a vibrant red – a miracle.  The poinsettia industry today lends itself to an opportunistic US diplomat who imported the plant for commercial gain – his name: Joel Poinsett.  Interestingly, the red (or white or pink) color is from modified leaves called bracts.  The actual flowers of the poinsettia plant are those insignificant green and yellow spots in the center.  Read more….


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