Winter is in the air and the holidays are in full swing! We spend so much time hustling and bustling about with Christmas shopping and planning, we sometimes forget to slow down and enjoy the season. This month, we are encouraging you to take a leisure stroll on your favorite trails to see some our favorite native seasonal plants!
Hollies are one of the many native plants you can see in Alabama this time of year and with over 400 unique species you are bound to see some on the shortest of winter walks. With their classic dark green leaves and eye-catching red berries, hollies are a staple greenery of the holiday season.
Euphorbia cyathophora Murray
Practically everyone is familiar with the typical poinsettia that shows off its brilliant red bloom when winter rolls around. But I recently discovered Euphorbia cyathophora Murray, or more commonly known as Wild Poinsettia or Painted Poinsettia. These Alabama native plants have smaller leaves but still adorn those bright red colors we enjoy this time of year! The milky sap of these plants has been known to cause skin irritations and gastrointestinal issues if ingested so be sure to keep your distance and only enjoy them with your eyes.
Ah, Mistletoe – such a beautiful, romantic reminder of the holidays. That is, only if the term “obligate hemiparasite” gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling. This lovely title comes from its tendency to infest many landscape trees. “Obligate” refers to the need for the mistletoe to have a host tree to grow on as it does not grow in the earth. “Hemiparasite” means the plant does not fully rely on the host to survive as other true parasites do. Mistletoe has rootlike structures known as haustoria that grow into the tree’s sapwood and absorb the tree’s water, nutrients, and sugars directly from the sap stream. Don’t let the plants true nature give you the winter blues – in many parts of the world Mistletoe is responsible for many medicinal treatments with anxiety, depression and even certain types of cancers.
The classic, most commonly used tree for Christmas is the Fraser Fir. It is a small evergreen coniferous tree that typically grows anywhere from thirty to fifty feet tall. It is currently listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Due to their native position on the Appalachian Mountains, they are susceptible to destruction by windfall and fire. However, an invasive insect known as the Balsam Woolly Adelgid has caused far more damage to these well-known trees. Across the world we have been using firs, pines and spruces since the 16th century to decorate our homes for the holidays. But to this day the Fraser Fir is the most iconic tree chosen for the Christmas season.
We hope this December you find a moment to enjoy some wonderful winter plant life and remember the reasons you enjoy this beautiful holiday season!