Estuarium offers excursions to harvest holiday greenery

Published 1:00 pm Thursday, November 23, 2017

Want to gather mistletoe and learn about it? Then the North Carolina Estuarium’s annual Mistletoe River Roving trips can help with that.

The mistletoe-harvesting excursions are scheduled for Dec. 6-8 at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and 10:30 a.m. Dec. 9. Mistletoe harvesters will board the Estuarium’s pontoon boat for the trips up the Pamlico-Tar River and some of its tributaries.

The excursions are more than just journeys to gather mistletoe. The guide, Russ Chesson, will explain the lore and science of mistletoe. “We do a little bit of both. We talk about the natural and cultural history of mistletoe. We start back in the Middle Ages and work our way forward,” Chesson said.

Children must be at least 6 years old to ride. There is no charge for trips, although donations are accepted. Call 252-948-0000 to reserve a seat.

Chesson, the Estuarium’s operations and programming specialist, said the December River Roving trips are popular. Chesson, who was the guide in 2015 and 2016, said the weather often influences the trips. “It is one of the more popular events. It’s one of the more asked about events each year,” he said. “It’s definitely a good trip. I think people get to see a side of the river they don’t typically get to see.”

The mistletoe excursions began about 12 years ago when Linda Boyer was the Estuarium’s environmental educator. After discussing mistletoe during harvesting trips, she would often quiz harvesters about the information she dispensed as the pontoon boat plied the waters of the river and its tributaries.

There are two kinds of mistletoe. One, phoradendron flavescens, is native to North America and is used as a Christmas decoration. The other type, viscum album, is of European origin. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of mistletoe species.

Mistletoe is a parasite, or more correctly a partial parasite. Mistletoe, like other plants, can produce its own food through photosynthesis. Mostly, mistletoe grows on trees, sending out roots that enter the trees and absorb nutrients.

Several Internet sources note that mistletoe was sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids and Norsemen. Mistletoe also was known as “all-heal,” used in folk medicine to cure many ills.

Several sources indicate that kissing under mistletoe is an English custom, but there are other origins of the kissing custom, according to various sources. According to the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture Web site, kissing under mistletoe is associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites. There’s also a Norse legend about the kissing custom.

In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make up.




About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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