Mistletoe’s Kiss of Death

Friend or Foe?

In western culture, mistletoe is a symbol of friendship and joy. When someone mentions mistletoe, many of us think of warm fires, Christmas trees, and the game of stealing a kiss while standing beneath a sprig of it. From a tree’s perspective however, the sentiment is not so rosy.

In nature, mistletoe is a poisonous plant parasite that lives by infecting trees. If left untreated, a mistletoe infection will weaken its host and eventually cause it to die.

Mistletoe growth

Identification & Life Cycle

Mistletoe grows between 2-3 feet in length and has thick leathery oval-shaped leaves. It is most readily seen in winter, when trees have shed their leaves. Bare branches make is easy to spot dense, green balls of mistletoe flourishing in the canopy. A healthy tree may be able to survive a few mistletoe growths, but if left alone, the parasite will continue depleting the tree of vital water and nutrients. Over time, the tree becomes weak and unhealthy, resulting in decay and eventual death.

This parasite is spread when birds and squirrels eat the sticky white berries produced by the mistletoe and then defecate in a nearby tree. The sticky residue adheres to the branches and the mistletoe’s shallow root system nests itself in the host’s bark. It is imperative that a mistletoe infection is removed before the spring or else more berries will be produced and consumed by animals, and the seeds will be spread again.

Mistletoe is most likely to infect  maples, water oaks, laurel oaks, and elms. Below are some before and after pictures of infected trees in Volusia County that were treated by SB Tree Service.

 IMG_0762 mistletoe in before tree      IMG_0763 mistletoe after

Before + After : Removing a mistletoe infestation

Get Rid of It

The very best way to manage the spread of mistletoe is by amputating the infected branch at two feet from the mistletoe growth. This removes the mistletoe root system at the source. Drastic pruning of a tree is unhealthy, so it’s imperative to catch the growth of the parasite before it heavily infests your trees.

Call the Pros

Do you have mistletoe or other parasites damaging your trees? Call us at 386.320.3056 or schedule a free estimate online. SB Tree Service is licensed and insured. Our specialists are more than happy to investigate any mistletoe growth in your trees and suggest the best course of action. We want your trees to remain as healthy and beautiful as possible all year long.

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