Good news, holiday kissers.
Not all the environmental news of the past year was bleak. Consider the recent announcement of a new species of mistletoe - encouraging news for holiday season smoochers.
Well, not exactly. Anyone planning to kiss under a sprig of Helixanthera shizocalyx would have to travel to Mount Mabu in northern Mozambique, where the species was discovered. So far, Mozambique is the only place it has been found.
The new species of tropical, wild mistletoe was found by a butterfly specialist, Colin Congdon, who was on an expedition of the United Kingdom's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which is the New York Yankees (the old Yankees, mind you) of plant and fungi species researchers. Of the roughly 200 new species discovered each year, Kew is credited with about 10 percent of them.
Congdon noticed the plant growing near the peak of Mount Mabu, an "island mountain" of granite that rises abruptly from the surrounding flatlands and in a remote enclave that researchers call "the lost forest."
"He, with his eagle eye, saw this thing - he recognized it as somewhat different," said Jonathan Timberlake, who led the 2008 expedition to Mabu. The new species, like other tropical mistletoes, is leafier that the European and North American Christmas classic, which features a cluster of berries on a green stem.
Ancient Celts considered the mistletoe an antidote to poison and an aphrodisiac. The latter quality probably explains the more recent Christmas custom of hanging mistletoe indoors and obliging men and women who meet under it to pucker up.
For the record, Kew's other discoveries this year include a giant canopy tree in Cameroon, a new orchid from Vietnam, a wild eggplant from East Africa and two long-lost British fungi that were thought to be extinct - none of which, to the best of our knowledge, require a holiday kiss.