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You are watching: Symbiotic relationship between trees and mistletoe


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Red maple is a common host the mistletoe in NC.


Mistletoe is a typical plant throughout phibìc Carolina that have the right to be found growing on the branches that deciduous trees. This same mistletoe is often harvested and brought indoors throughout the holidays, whereby it is hung in entry to carry out an excuse for stealing a kiss. Despite often considered a pest, over there are numerous things that have to be considered prior to deciding if this tree is a girlfriend or foe.

Mistletoe Biology

While mistletoe can prosper on much more than 100 different species of trees, that is many often discovered on pecan, hickory, oaks, red maple and also black gum in north Carolina. Mistletoe is a little evergreen shrub that is semi-parasitic on other plants. Instead of developing roots in the ground, mistletoe sends out root favor structures into tree branches, native which the steals water and nutrients. The tree the mistletoe grows upon is well-known as that is host. Together a eco-friendly plant, mistletoe go contain chlorophyll and is able to make few of its own food, so it does not completely deplete its host tree.

Mistletoe is most easily seen in winter. Watch for ball shaped eco-friendly masses as much as 3’ broad connected to otherwise ceiling tree branches. Each mass in a tree is an separation, personal, instance mistletoe plant and a solitary tree may host only a few or numerous mistletoe plants. Birds space responsible for dispersing mistletoe through seed. They relish its white berries, i m sorry ripen in early winter. As soon as birds feeding on these berries, the seed within the berry passes through the bird’s digestive track surrounding by a difficult film the helps the particle stick come tree branches once it comes out the various other end. Locations where trees are heavily infested with mistletoe are frequently indicative the a healthy bird population.

Is Mistletoe Harmful?

Mistletoe spreads and grows relatively slowly and is rarely considered an immediate threat come tree health. Healthy and balanced trees space able come tolerate a couple of mistletoe plants with little harmful effect. Trees the are heavily infested with mistletoe may end up being less vigorous, stunted, and can perhaps be eliminated if subjected to extr stress indigenous drought, exdearteassociazione.orgsive temperatures, root damage, insect infestation, or disease.

Like countless organisms the at an initial appear to just be pests, mistletoe also has part benefits. That is tremendously beneficial to wildlife, an especially birds and insects. For many property owners, the existence of mistletoe must be thought about a sign of a diverse ecosystem rather than a danger to tree health.

Controlling Mistletoe


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Mistletoe diffusion by seed included within poisonous white berries.


If mistletoe is farming on trees in your yard the ideal thing you deserve to do because that them is to carry out extra water throughout drought and also an yearly spring application of slow release or organic fertilizer. In addition, use a 2”-3” great of mulch or floor leaves roughly trees from the trunk out to the leaf of the canopy. This will mitigate competition from grass, conserve moisture, and also protect tree from injury through mowing equipment.

If there room trees on your building where mistletoe development cannot it is in tolerated, friend can manage it by pruning out the infested branches. Simply cutting the mistletoe back flush through the branch will not kill this parasite, despite it will assist slow its growth and spread. In a tree where countless branches would have to be gotten rid of to rid it of mistletoe, just letting nature to take it its course is the better option together removing multiple branches is harmful and often fatal come trees.

Pruning tree to eliminate mistletoe is best done in winter through a certified arborist. Certified arborists are very qualified tree experts who have actually passed the certified arborist exam offered through the International society of Arboriculture. A perform of certified arborists practicing in phibìc Carolina have the right to be found on your website, www.isa-arbor.com.

Use through Care

If you are considering harvesting mistletoe to bring indoors during the holiday, be certain to place it carefully. The white berries of our indigenous mistletoe space poisonous and also may reason stomach and also intestinal irritation through diarrhea, lower blood pressure, and slow pulse if ingested. If an median adult would have to eat numerous berries before ending up being sick, pets and children might be more sensitive. Make sure to save mistletoe well out of their reach.

Learn More!

Learn an ext about mistletoe’s lore, herbal history, and management in landscape trees from these online resourdearteassociazione.org:

Use Extension Search to find research based details from cooperative Extension systems throughout the U.S.

Visit her local Cooperative Extension office to learn much more about gardening and also landscape care. Discover your county extension center.

Subscribe come the dearteassociazione.org Gardener email list to receive timely updates on sustainable lawn, garden, and landscape care for the main NC Piedmont.

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Written By

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Charlotte Glen, Ed.D.State Coordinator, NC State extension Master Gardener programCall Charlotte email Charlotte Horticultural science NC State Extension, NC State University