Today I was just remembering when I learned in school that our state flower was mistletoe. When I was a kid I thought, hey, cool, we get the stuff they hang at Christmas for kissing in the doorways. It may be ugly and have super sticky berries, but at least it's kinda famous around the holidays.
Mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum)
"Mistletoe phoradendron serotinum the oldest of Oklahoma's symbols, adopted in 1893 -- 14 years before statehood. Mistletoe grows on trees throughout the state and is particularly bountiful in the southern regions of Oklahoma. The dark green leaves and white berries show up brightly during the fall and winter in trees that have shed their own leaves."
But then you get older and realize, no, this isn't even a flower---I mean, you don't see bouquets of mistletoe. No, in fact, it's freaking parasite on the trees.
"Mistletoe is the common name for various parasitic plants of the families Santalaceae. The species grow on a wide range of trees, and can eventually prove fatal to them where infestation is heavy... Mistletoe has sometimes been nick-named the 'vampire plant' because it can probe beneath the tree bark to drain water and minerals, enabling it to survive during a drought..."
A parasite for a state flower is just plain cruel for a state that is already afflicted with so many weather hardships. The "flower" KILLS and/or stunts the growth of trees, and it spreads from tree to tree by being eaten and then shat out by birds. How romantic. This is too bad considering that Oklahoma is already beat down by its own official state license plates' motto: "Oklahoma is OK." That's the weakest slogan ever---our state aint nothing special, but it's okay, I guess.
I was thinking while driving to and from Oklahoma this weekend, though, that for a big flat dry state, it's pretty. It's a rough kind of pretty that must be appreciated for what little is there in subtle colors... Purple and yellow-ish dying grass way into the horizon. Nothing to obstruct a view of the sky. Cotton and alfalfa fields. Bright wildflowers that grow in what is almost a desert. Cracked-open red dirt valleys with bits of water from a pond that couldn't live through the harsh summer. One might need something to compare with Oklahoma to fully appreciate it---maybe spend a week in New York City, then look at this landscape for a little relief from the assault on your senses. It's peaceful.
Maybe mistletoe, like Oklahoma, isn't so bad. Today I've read that after long being thought of as only a destructive parasite, mistletoe actually has some uses. Birds are attracted to the mistletoe for both food and to use for nests, and the birds then spread a tree's seeds. The mistletoe leaves and berries are also eaten by many animals. Mistletoe has just found out what I've always wanted to know about myself: that rather than just being a pest on this earth, I serve a purpose.
Looks like mistletoe can kill branches and slow a tree's growth but doesn't usually kill it. Just like Oklahoma didn't allow me to grow to full adult height and left me mostly uneducated, but it didn't kill me in the end. Perhaps the state flower is actually appropriate.
And that's all I've got to say about that.