Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. The hundreds of kinds of mistletoe found around the world are flowering plants. Tiny yellow-green flowers appear on the common mistletoe of eastern North America in late-winter at the time the berries from the previous year are ripe. Mistletoe grows in rounded clumps at the tops of trees and shiny white berries of mistletoe are most conspicuous when food resources are often scarce for wintering birds. Many birds eat the berries of mistletoe, including our northern mockingbird, eastern bluebird, and American robin. Mistletoe berries have an efficient, but peculiar adaptation for being dispersed by birds. When a bird breaks off a berry, the berry leaks a bit of very sticky juice. Some berries stick to the top or the side of a bird’s bill and thus, don't get swallowed. The bird tries to get rid of the attached berry, wipes its bill on a tree branch, the berry sticks to the branch and a new plant begins growing there. Even berries eaten by the bird provides seeds that help spread mistletoe. Seeds pass through a bird's digestive tract undamaged, emerge with a bit of fertilizer in a sticky mass that adheres to tree branches until the seeds germinate and the new mistletoe begins to grow.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.