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Mistletoe generally is a welcome festive sight when hung over a door, nevertheless it’s an undesirable trespasser when in timber outdoors.

“Mistletoe is a hemiparasite, a semiparasitic plant,” says Allison Watkins, AgriLife Extension Horticulturist for Tom Inexperienced County at Texas A&M College. “It makes its meals from photosynthesis, however the roots develop into the host tree, absorbing water and minerals from the sap”

In different phrases, you most likely do not need to see mistletoe rising in your favourite shade tree or prized decorative plant. Nonetheless, mistletoe can survive so long as the tree it inhabits. Due to this fact, some mistletoe alive at the moment should still be round 100 years from now.


One kind of mistletoe that’s generally used as a ornament throughout the holidays is within the household. foradendronwhich appropriately interprets as “tree thief” in Greek.

Mistletoe has been utilized in varied cultures all through historical past for a wide range of issues, together with protecting demons from getting into a door and defending infants from fairies stealing their cradles within the evening.

Though mistletoe is known as the kissing plant, its title might have originated from Previous English for the phrases twig and dung. How’s that for stepping into the romantic trip spirit?

Mistletoe 101: Do not Eat It

Mistletoe causes tree stress and might make a tree extra vulnerable to illness and bugs, Watkins says. Though it’s unlikely to kill a wholesome tree, it may kill branches. It may be particularly laborious on a tree throughout a drought.

Mistletoe is well unfold when birds eat the berries after which unfold the seed from department to department and tree to tree via their feces. The seeds are exceptionally sticky and can even hitchhike with their toes and beaks.

Sure species of mistletoe can even shoot their very own seeds at speeds of round 60 mph as soon as the berry bursts like an overfilled water balloon.

Some mistletoe are toxic, so it’s all the time sensible to watch out when dealing with the plant. Totally different components of the plant and totally different species have totally different ranges of toxicity. And whereas birds and wildlife eat the berries, it is not one thing you need your loved ones members, together with pets, to eat.

Mistletoe is most simply seen in winter when lots of the host timber lose their leaves to disclose clumps of evergreen mistletoe. The spherical form will be as giant as a number of toes throughout.

Since birds wish to perch within the tops of tall timber, mistletoe is most frequently present in mature timber close to the highest. A tree department might change into enlarged the place the plant has connected itself.

animal shelters

Mistletoe performs a key function in lots of forest and grassland ecosystems. For instance, its white flowers present nectar and pollen for native bees and honey bees. There are additionally varied kinds of butterflies and moths that rely solely on mistletoe species as host crops for his or her caterpillars.

“Birds aren’t the one animals that eat mistletoe: squirrels eat the berries too, and deer and porcupines eat the plant itself, particularly if different meals are in brief provide,” says Maureen Frank, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist. in Uvalde.

Many animals nest in mistletoe clumps, particularly when the plant causes its host tree to kind witches’ brooms, that are dense lots of distorted branches, Frank says. Mistletoe and corresponding witches’ brooms present refuge for tree squirrels, flying squirrels, and a wide range of birds, from small chickadees to raptors comparable to Cooper’s hawks.

Tree harm from mistletoe can even present properties for cavity-nesting species of birds, bats, bugs, and small mammals.

prune with care

“Even when you take away mistletoe from a tree, the root-like construction stays embedded within the tree, which means it would develop again,” says Watkins.

The one method to take away mistletoe from a tree is to prune the department it’s on. In the event you really feel your tree is turning into overwhelmed with the parasite, understand that mistletoe takes two to a few years to mature, so the earlier you possibly can take away the contaminated department, the higher you will decrease the unfold. And the smaller the department that must be eliminated, the much less stress can be positioned on the tree.

“In most well-maintained landscapes, there could also be mistletoe right here or there, nevertheless it’s most likely not one thing to fret about an excessive amount of,” says Watkins.

The stress from over-pruning may very well be extra damaging than the mistletoe itself, she says. Watkins says that she ought to preserve the following pointers in thoughts if she decides to prune:

Gentle pruning will be accomplished at any time of the 12 months, however extra vital pruning is finest accomplished within the winter when the tree is dormant.

  • Prune no a couple of third of the crown of a tree.
  • Lifeless branches will be eliminated at any time.
  • To stop the unfold of oak wilt, oak timber shouldn’t be pruned from February to June. December and January are the perfect time to prune oak timber.
  • Paint the cuts to guard the tree.

Supply: Texas A&M College

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