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BOTANY, TAXONOMY, HOST TREES AND GEOGRAPHY

The Korean name of mistletoe is "gyo-uh-sari" which means "the plant that survives in cold winter". Three genera with four species of mistletoes are distributed in Korea: Viscum album, var. coloratum Ohwi. (Figure 1a), Korthalsella japonica Engl., Loranthus yadoriki Sieb. and Loranthus tanakae Fr. et Sav. (Figure 1b).

Table 1 Korean mistletoes and other East-Asian populations.

Table 1 Korean mistletoes and other East-Asian populations.

Figure 1 Viscum album, var. coloratum (A) and Loranthus tanakae (B), two yellow-berry mistletoes distributed in Korea.

Figure 1 Viscum album, var. coloratum (A) and Loranthus tanakae (B), two yellow-berry mistletoes distributed in Korea.

Loranthus parasiticus (L.) Merr is distributed in China, and Taxillus kaempferi Danser and Taxillus yadoriki Danser are distributed in Japan (Table 1).

The yellow-berry mistletoe, Viscum album L. var. coloratum is a half-parasitic plant on oak (Quercus genus), chestnut tree (Castanea crenata S. et Z.), hackberry (Celtis sinensis Pers), birch (Betula platyphylla var. japonica Hara), Alnus hirsuta (Spach) Rupr., elm (Ulmus genus), willow (Salix genus) and maple (Acer palmatum Thunb). The plant is distributed widely over the Korean peninsula, the Northern part of China and Japan. Plants often develop a roundish form up to 30 to 60 cm or more in diameter. The thick, glossy and lanceolate leaves are arranged oppositely. The plant is dioecious with inconspicuous and light yellow male and female flowers. They bloom as clusters in the forks of the branches in spring. The round light-yellow berries are sticky and ripen during the mid-winter. The red-berry mistletoe, Viscum album var. coloratum for. rubroaurantiacum Ohwi is distributed in Cheju island, the southernmost island of Korea.

In the 1980s, the Korean mistletoe (Viscum album L. var. coloratum) was introduced and cultivated in Switzerland, Lucas garden, Arlesheim. There are at present 87 Korean mistletoes successfully growing on Quercus genus, Betula alba, Cytisus, Nerium oleander, Populus trichocarpa, Prunus avium, Robinia pseudoacacia, and Salix caprea. Recently, hyperparasitic white-berry European mistletoe is growing on the twigs of yellow-berry Korean mistletoe (personal communications from F.Grazi in Arlesheim).

Korthalsella japonica Engler is distributed in southern islands of Korea and Japan. The plant is parasitic on camellia (Camellia japonica L.), spindle trees (Euonymus japonica Thunb), Eurya japonica Thunb and Vaccinium bracteatum Thunb. The small degenerated leaves are protruded from the lots of joints of the green stem.

There are three species of broad leaf mistletoes in Korea and China. Loranthus yadoriki Sieb. and Loranthus tanakae Fr. et Saw. distributed in Korea and Loranthus parasiticus (L.) Merr distributed in China.

Loranthus yadoriki Sieb. is distributed in Cheju island, the southernmost island of Korea. The evergreen parasite shrub grows on camellia (Camellia japonica L.), silver magnolia (Machilus thunbergii S. et Z.), Castanopsis cuspidata var. sieboldii Nakai and Actinodaphne lancifolia (S. et Z.) Neisn. The broad-elliptical leaves are 1 to 3 cm long and arranged oppositely or alternately. The flowers are bisexual and the sticky-yellow berries are attached to the stem continuously forming tail-shape.

An extraordinarily deciduous plant, Loranthus tanakae Fr. et Sav. is distributed in Cheju island and in the middle of Korean peninsula. The plant grows on oak (Quercus genus) and chestnut trees (Castanea crenata S. et Z.). The tongue-shaped leaves are 2 to 4 cm long and arranged oppositely. The dark purplish brown stem is freely forked and the grey part of the bark is peeled after winter.

Loranthus parasiticus (L.) Merr grows on mulberry (Morus alba L.) and many other trees in Southern China. The broad leaves are ovate or oblong and are arranged oppositely or alternately. The red brown flowers are bisexual and umbrella-shaped. The elliptical berries are ripen in autumn.

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