Mistletoe Removal

What is mistletoe and what efect does it have on my trees?

Broadleaf mistletoe (Phoradendron macrophyllum) is an evergreen parasitic plant that grows on a number of landscape tree species in California. Leafy mistletoes have green stems with thick leaves that are nearly oval in shape. Clumps of mistletoe are readily observed in winter when deciduous trees have shed their leaves. The plant produces small, whitish berries from October to December.

Once on a host tree, mistletoe grows through the bark and into the tree's water-conducting tissues where rootlike structures called haustoria develop. These "roots" gradually extend up and down within the branch as the mistletoe grows, robbing the host tree of water and mineral nutrients.

Because mistletoe has the green leaves necessary for photosynthesis, it is not considered a true parasite. However, because it depends on the host plant for water and minerals, mistletoe poses a serious threat to the health of your trees. A healthy tree can easily tolerate a minor mistletoe infection. However, trees with heavy infestations of mistletoe may be reduced in vigor, stunted, or even killed.

How does mistletoe proliferate?

The mistletoe plant produces small, whitish berries which are covered with a sticky outer layer. Birds feed on these berries, then deposit the seed remains onto branches in the form of droppings. These seeds quickly germinate and immediately tap into the host tree for water and nutrients.

How can mistletoe be eliminated?

The most effective way to remove mistletoe is to prune out infected branches as soon as mistletoe becomes apparent. The best time to remove it is during the winter months, when the plant is easily identified on the otherwise bare branches.

Infected branches should be removed at their point of origin or, back to large lateral branches. After cutting the branch, check inside its tissue for signs of haustoria (these "roots" will show up as green dots or streaks in the wood). It is necessary to completely remove these embedded roots in order to prevent a reemergence of mistletoe plants.

Fun Facts

  • Mistletoe's scientific name comes from the Greek word Phoradendron, meaning "thief of the tree." Using mistletoe for holiday decoration has been a tradition for thousands of years, dating back to the early Europeans who saw it as a symbol of fertility. Marriage rituals were performed under it, creating the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe.
  • The name "mistletoe" is believed to have derived from the Anglo-Saxon word mistletan. "Mistle" is the Anglo-Saxon word for "dung" and "tan" is the word for "twig." Therefore, mistletoe means "dung-on-a-twig."
  • Mistletoe phoradendron serotinum is the state flower of Oklahoma.

Contact Us:

Phone: (916) 722-6321
Email: bptreeservices@aol.com

4537 Harlin Drive

Sacramento, CA 95826


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