Scientific Classification: Australia has two species, Loranthaceae and Santalacaea
Location: all over Australia, except for Tasmania.
They are a parasitic plant that grows on trees and shrubs. Their modified root system, called haustoria, burrows into the bark of the host tree. The leaves of the mistletoe have chlorophyll so they can make their own food but they need water and nutrients. Their haustorium penetrates the bark via enzymatic breakdown and uses the host’s water supply and dissolved nutrients.
The mistletoe produces little pea-sized fruits with a bitter skin, sweet flesh and a seed covered with a sticky coating. When a bird eats the fruit, the seed sticks to their beak, so the bird wipes the seed onto a branch, where it quickly germinates and thrusts a root into the host plant. The fruit and flowers are really important for the food supply of surrounding wildlife, such as possums, birds and insects.
We were at a rest area on the Stuart Highway, somewhere between Alice Springs and Tennant Creek and we noticed some finches in a shrub covered in red, trumpeted flowers and little black berries. We checked the Bush Tucker Guide and found it to be mistletoe!
Dave was the first to try the berry. The flesh was nice and sweet but spitting the seed out was nearly impossible because of that sticky coating. We always get excited when we stumble across bush tucker – especially if we haven’t tried it before – so we had a bit of a look around the area but we didn’t find any more with ripe fruit.
Disclaimer: We are not bush tucker experts! We have a bush tucker guide and we will only eat wild berries and such once we are 100% confident that it’s safe. We must stress that you should not eat anything until you are also 100% confident and educated that it is safe and non-toxic.