THE word mistletoe automatically conjures up images of people kissing under the plant at Christmas.
However, there's much more magic to this part of nature than meets the eye as participants in recent workshops at Yanco and Griffith found out.
The event was led by world mistletoe expert Dave Watson from Charles Sturt University, who explained there are 97 species of the plant in Australia.
Six of those can be found in this area.
They are part of an ancient marriage between bird and plant.
When the mistletoe bird or painted honeyeater eats the fruit of the mistletoe it only takes 14 minutes for the seed to come out the other end.
The seed has a sticky surround and attaches itself to the branch or whatever it happens to fall onto.
There is no life created if the seed falls onto a fence post or bare dirt, but if it is lucky enough to fall onto the branch of a tree the seed will attach itself and start the formation of a mistletoe.
It is best if the branch is the size of a pencil or thinner. The seed is often dropped on the high outside branches.
People often think that mistletoe kill trees.
Professor Watson gave an interesting comparison.
"We have to think about it like fleas on a dog," he said.
"It is not in the fleas' interest to kill their host. That would not make sense. The mistletoe does not aim to kill the tree.
"They do however, rely on the tree for water and nutrients. Mistletoe is not an introduced species, it is not a weed, it is more of a free-loading teenager."
Some of the European mistletoe are poisonous, but those in Australia are not.
They have been eaten by Aboriginal people for thousands of years. They are quite a tasty treat called "snotty gobble".
They can be used a bit like chewing gum by producing saliva and quenching thirst.
"I believe that mistletoe is a keystone resource in our forests - just as a keystone in a building arch supports the arch and the building, a keystone species is one species in an ecosystem that has a huge effect on other organisms in the system," Professor Watson said.
"Take it away and the arch collapses."
Professor Watson has written a book all about mistletoe titled Mistletoe of Southern Australia, with copies available online or at the Leeton, Griffith or Narrandera libraries.