The traditional holiday decoration has been so devastated by the Texas drought that retailers are struggling to find any.
Looking forward to smooching under the mistletoe this holiday season? You can kiss that idea goodbye.
"We called our supplier to order a case of mistletoe and were told that there is none to be had this year," said Steve Frazier, who with his wife, Karen, owns Excelsior Florist in Excelsior.
Both the quantity and quality of this year's harvest have taken a beating because of the drought in Texas.
"We decided not to carry it this year because we couldn't find any that met our standards," said Lisa Paschke, vice president of marketing for Bachman's. "We're still on the hunt for a supplier, but nothing we've seen so far works for us."
Mistletoe is a parasitic shrub that grows on trees and, if allowed to grow unchecked, can kill the host tree. It flourishes in tropical and subtropical forests. Of the more than 900 species identified worldwide, only two are native to North America, including the plant commonly used for Christmas decorations, which grows primarily on trees in the South, Southwest and southern East Coast.
Unlike other shortages that have come out of the Texas drought -- cotton, hay and pumpkin crops among them -- the mistletoe shortfall snuck up on people.
Mistletoe sales are not a major part of florists' holiday business, Frazier and Paschke said. As a result, the issue didn't generate much buzz within the industry. Most retailers weren't aware of the problem until they tried to place an order.
But while the mistletoe customers are few in number, they're loyal in their pursuit of the traditional decoration.
"We've had customers come in looking for mistletoe and have had to turn them away," Frazier said. "The use of mistletoe has changed over the years. It used to be associated with office Christmas parties, but now it's more of a family tradition. People are looking for something that they can remember as precious and personal, and nothing is as personal as a kiss."
Going to Plan B
The Lake Minnetonka Excelsior Rotary Club and the Rotary Club of Excelsior planned to raise money for a food bank by selling mistletoe. They even had a slogan: "Kiss hunger goodbye."
What they didn't have, it turns out, was mistletoe. They came up with an alternative that befits the 21st century: virtual mistletoe.
"We printed cards with pictures of mistletoe on them," said Scott Lucas, a partner in the law firm Olson & Lucas. "We're calling them bearer-redeemable mistletoe cards."
The $1 cards (available at www.kisshungergoodbye .com) come with directions: "Hold it over your head, think good thoughts and pucker up. Repeat."
When people come into their store looking for mistletoe, the Fraziers, who are members of both clubs, have been offering to sell them the cards instead. The reaction among customers has been so positive that they're thinking of continuing the practice next year even if they can get real mistletoe to sell.
"People are buying multiple cards to include in their Christmas cards," Frazier said. "I think this is an idea that will keep going."
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392
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