The Mistletoe plant is a devastating parasite of trees worldwide.   There is a softwoods variety of dwarfed mistletoe that is 'thorny' kinda.  Then there is the leathery leafed variety that we see in Florida hardwoods.  This list includes: Camphor, Chinaberry, Elm,  Hickory, Oak, Pecan, Sourgum, Sycamore, Willow etc.   Down here we find the 'lesser' oaks (Water, Laurel etc. rather than Live Oaks etc.) to be more likely to have mistletoe, and also for it to then proliferate more i think. That can be good that it don't mess so much with the more favored Live Oaks. But, on the flipside; bad in that the trees it does hit seem to grow with more speed/ less quality. Thus are more problematic/ more chance of other problems/ less defense as compounding elements to the mistletoe weakening the trees further.  Other complications are that it grabs it's water first, so can starve a host tree from water, especially in tough droughts etc.

This plant is spread by birds and squirrels from it' berries in the spring.  Then grows on it's host plant; draining the life from the tree etc.  Shaving mistletoe off a branch doesn't get rid of it, as it will regrow, from 'roots'/hausteria under the bark; that may extend up to 2', but usually seems not more than 18".  After pollination it takes a full year to berry/seed.  So shaving off bark sets it back from spreading by 1 season,  But it will grow back.  Florel forces the blooms to abort, but must be applied at right time, and is not a cure.  Amputation of the limb further back than the roots/hysteria is the generally accepted 'cure'.  Otherwise some try to suffocate teh plant from air/light with paint, or kill it with herbicide at the risk of hurting the hsot tree, for their systems are joined.

Fortunately our Live Oaks seem resistant to this parasite.  But our thinner barked Water and Laurel Oaks etc. seem most easily infected, then devastated; along with Elms, Maples etc.  So, the tree breeds that seem to get infected easier, and also more deeply infected; are the ones that are 'weaker' breeds; giving further complications.  Mistletoe can make or help to make a tree hazardous.

Wintery time of year, when the trees thin, you can see the mistletoe better; for it doesn't thin. This is the time to assess and treat it; before the poisonous berries in the spring get spread by birds/squirrels droppings from eating the berries. Also, can be spread shortly thereafter, as small plants not quite anchored, and transported in mouths of these carriers.

Some butterflies and moths feed on mistletoe without spreading it. Over thinning or less dense woods coverage can expose more wood area, to chance the parasite getting a good anchor. Mistletoe dropped just on dense leaf coverage having less of a chance to take hold i think.  Even if it does get a good hold there, it is more likely to fall off of it's own weight.

Sources and Links:  Our Mistletoe Foe , , US Forest Service ,

Florida Nature Photos , Pruning , Mistletoe can Harm Trees , More Pix

Natl. Geographic: Mistletoe may account for 50% of lost timber in Colorado!


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mistletoe, parasite, picture, tree, spread, hausteria mistletoe, parasite, picture, tree, spread,  hausteria
Click for larger picture: Mistletoe identification, damage and volume on a branch. Click for larger picture: Mistletoe destruction; parasite depletes host branch, deforming it drastically
mistletoe, parasite, picture, tree, spread,  hausteria  
Click for larger picture: Mistletoe becomes easier to sight out in wintering months.  It stays green and full as many trees thin this time of year.