Test Your Christmas (Garden) Knowledge

Do you know the secrets behind the holiday's classic icons? 

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Photo By: Image courtesy of the Biltmore Company

Photo By: Image courtesy of the Biltmore Company

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Photo By: Image courtesy of The National Christmas Tree Association

True or False?

Mistletoe is a parasite.

True!

Well, sort of:
Though mistletoe doesn't technically meet all the qualifications to be a true parasite, the plant often latches itself onto trees, burying its roots into the bark and absorbing its host's nutrients. Aggressive varieties, like American mistletoe, often kill their unsuspecting hosts. Romantic, huh? 

True or False?

The bright red blooms on poinsettias aren't actually flowers.

True!

The vibrant red color on poinsettia plants are called bracts—a modified leaf. To see poinsettia's true flower, get up close. The green, red and yellow clusters in the center of the plant are the real flowers.

True or False?

When picking up a live Christmas tree, make sure to shake and inspect it—or you might unleash a hoard of praying mantis babies in your living room.

True!

Unfortunately for those of us with insectophobia, this is true. Female praying mantises are known to lay their egg sacs—which can contain up to 300 eggs—on the branches and base of evergreens. Some Christmas tree farms even include the insect predators as part of their integrated pest management (IPM) system. Luckily, the likelihood that an undetected egg sac would hatch in your home are pretty low. Better safe than sorry, though.

True or False?

Cranberries are native to Europe and have always been associated with Christmas.

False!

Cranberries are actually native to North America and were said to be a large part of the Native American diet. The tough, brightly-colored berries, typically in peak season late September through January, became a natural choice for holiday meals and decorating.

True or False?

Poinsettias are extremely poisonous.

False!

The poisonous properties of poinsettias are largely exaggerated. Though the plants do contain a toxic sap, diterpene esters, accidental ingestion usually results in nothing more than a mild stomachache. For safekeeping, keep the plant out of reach of pets and small children.

True or False?

The Yule Log is a tradition that started in the United States. 

False!

Though the Yule Log's origins are many and varied, we do know that the tradition dates back to before medieval times in northern Europe, the word "Yule" referring to a pagan religious festival celebrating the winter solstice. Some legends even say the Yule Log used to be an entire tree! 

Pop Quiz

What's the most-loved Christmas tree variety?

Balsam Fir

Found in the Northeast, the balsam fir has a cone shape with short but dense branches, dark green needles and a pleasing aroma. Other tree varieties that give the balsam fir a run for its money: Fraser fir, Douglas fir, white pines and Colorado spruces.