Kissing under the mistletoe

Department of Conservation —  30/04/2013

Community Relations Ranger Anna McKnight is on the hunt for the rare white mistletoe, or to be more precise a photo of her favourite plant flowering.

I am crazy in love with the rare white mistletoe Tupeia Antarctica. I am looking for a photo of the flowers of my beloved, and am hoping other people who have fallen for the white mistletoe have taken a close up photo (or any photo at all) of these flowers.

The white mistletoe fruit growing on the plant.

The berry of the white mistletoe

Falling in love with mistletoes is easy! They are hemi–parasitic plants, this means they use specially adapted roots to extract water and nutrients from the stem tissues of their host plant, but also produce their own energy through photosynthetic green leaves. Mistletoes rarely harm their host tree in New Zealand.

White mistletoe in a host tree.

White mistletoe in a host tree

I think we should start a tradition here in NZ of kissing under the mistletoe like they do in the Northern Hemisphere at Christmas time! In NZ the yellow – green flowers of the white mistletoe flower from October to December (which is why I missed them) and white to pink fleshy fruit from December to March.

A volunteer setting a trap beside a mistletoe plant.

Jean Stanley of the Pukawa Wildlife Trust helps protect the mistletoe from possums

I’m making an interpretation sign for a community called Pukawa at the bottom of Lake Taupō who are protecting this rare plant by trapping possums who love to eat the fruit. They also trap rats and stoats, which is great, as native birds play an important role in seed dispersal of the white mistletoe.

Ranger Anna McKnight blows a kiss.

Ranger Anna blowing a ‘mistletoe’ kiss

If you have any photos of this flower, or know of somewhere I might be able to find them please email me at

5 responses to Kissing under the mistletoe


    The plant would need to be translocated, and you would need to work with your local DOC Office:


    I live in a place that has no possums and plenty of native birds, thanks to the work of Zealandia who are just over the hill from me. I’m therefore wondering if it’s possible to buy seeds or cuttings of NZ mistletoe to plant in my garden?

    I really like the idea of attracting even more birds to the trees around my house. 🙂


    Hi Heather. I am sure Ranger Anna meant that we can bring back the tradition and continue to look after this precious plant.

    Instead of bringing the mistletoe to us we should go visit the mistletoe, have a cheeky kiss and leave it where it is. Embracing a tradition and teaching more and more people about the wonderful flora of Aotearoa at the same time.


    We used to kiss under the mistletoe … that’s a major reason for them to have disappeared .. along with the possums – so sorry I don’t support bringing back the Northern Hemisphere tradition at all.