Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the March 27, 2011 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

From here and there in Mexico I've reported on seeing "tropical mistletoe," genus Psittacanthus, which parasitizes trees just like "northern mistletoe," except that its flowers are large and red -- really striking. You can see examples of some at http://www.backyardnature.net/yucatan/psittaca.htm.

Psittacanthus mistletoe is common in the Yucatán, too, plus we have other species very similar to those seen in the northern temperate zone. A large bunch is shown in an Acacia tree below:


A close-up of its leaves and white fruits appears below:


Best I can figure, that's PHORADENDRON LEUCARPUM, the name now used to incorporate several species that in the past were considered separate -- species known as American, Eastern, Oak, Pacific, Western and Hairy Mistletoes. In our area there's a similar species, an endemic one, Phoradendron yucatanum, but that one's stems are squarish in cross section. You can see that our P. leucarpum has round stems.

I figured that any plant as unusual as mistletoe must be considered medicinal by the Maya, so I asked José the shaman. He says that if you have a wound that becomes sore and enflamed, sap from the mistletoe's succulent leaves should be placed around the wound, but not touching it. Also, a pulp of mistletoe leaves mixed with four other plants can be used to alleviate pains including headaches resulting from "bad winds" -- the "vientos malos" or evil winds that flow dangerously through the night.