Mistletoes are parasitic plants that directly derive all or most of their nutrition from other flowering plants during most or all of their life cycle. There are approximately 3,000 parasitic angiosperms in 15 plant families, and almost all are dicotyledonous. Although many parasitic plants contain functional chlorophyll, they depend on their plant hosts for most, or at least some, of their carbon requirements and for all of their other nutrient and water needs. By parasitizing other higher plants, they have a competitive advantage over many other forms of life because they do not have to compete in soil for their water and nutrient needs. The mistletoes originated in the tropics, where soils are typically poor in nutrition and competition within the soil between plants and microorganisms is fierce. At the end of the last Pleistocene glaciation event of 18,000 years ago, there was an active northward and southward migration and evolution of some of the mistletoes. A general description of mistletoes may be found in Tainter and Baker (9). A good over-view of the evolution of the mistletoes is given by Kuijt (8). Information on parasitic plants can be found on the website of The International Parasitic Plant Society, as well as at the delightful "The Parasitic Plant Connection" website by Dan Nickrent.

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