Mistletoe: The Parasite in Your Backyard!
December 26, 2018
During the holidays, the image of mistletoe usually evokes giggles and kisses. But we guarantee your trees are not as happy about the mistletoe hanging in its branches. Did you know that mistletoe is actually a parasite that attaches itself to trees, sucking up nutrients & water in order to survive? Sounds more like a Halloween nightmare than a Christmas tradition!
Which trees are most at risk?
There are many different types of mistletoe that each favor a different host plant, but in North Texas we most often see it attack cedar elm, hackberry, and oak trees. Trees that are stressed or weakened by drought, insects, or disease are more susceptible to being invaded by mistletoe.
Where does mistletoe grow?
Mistletoe doesn’t grow roots into soil like most other plants. Instead, it sends out root-like structures into trees branches to latch on, and then penetrate the bark to steal nutrients from the tree’s vascular system. Unlike other plant parasites, mistletoe is unique because it can produce some of its own food through photosynthesis. Truly an interesting organism!
How does mistletoe spread?
Mistletoe most often spreads from tree to tree by birds and squirrels. The parasite produces delicious white berries that birds eat – and then deposit – throughout the neighborhood. Berries become stuck to squirrel fur and drop as they scavenge. Mistletoe only seeds once every three years, therefore it is a relatively slow growing and spreading.
What damage does mistletoe cause?
If not removed early on, mistletoe will continue to grow and sap nutrients from your tree, until eventually, the branch dies. This is especially dangerous because weakened and dead branches become a hazard to you and your property. Besides the danger of falling branches, some species of mistletoe have poisonous berries that make people sick when ingesting as few as a couple berries.
What’s the best time to remove mistletoe?
During the growing season, it can be difficult to spot mistletoe in your trees. But during the winter when trees are bare, the bright green parasitic growths are easy to pinpoint. Timely removal before the spring flush of new growth helps to prevent stunting of your tree. After removal, we also suggest a fertilization to help replenish nutrients lost to the parasite.
Now is the perfect time to schedule mistletoe removal. Give our arborists a call so they can remove the parasite that might be lurking in your backyard.
Posted: December 26, 2018