August 11, 2009

Mistletoe Infestation

After our two old oak trees were trimmed, I discovered that they were infested with mistletoe. I always knew that mistletoe was a parasite. What I didn't realize is that it doesn't simply attach itself to a tree and grew on it. It infests the host and grows it's own branches from within. You can see this on the lefthand side of the photo below. (Click to enlarge.)

Mistletoe infestation on my oak trees.
There is a lot of legend and cultural tradition surrounding mistletoe. My concerns however, are what can be done about it and will it harm my trees. It is spread by birds and so is difficult to eliminate altogether. Manual removal from individual trees is the recommended method of control. Well, fat chance of that considering how tall my trees are. Information on how much damage it can do varies with the source one reads. Some articles say it doesn't kill the host, others say it does.

Considering how old my trees are, there's no telling whether they will die of that or old age. They've taken their toll recently, but one tree specialist told me that was because of the severe drought we're just coming out of. At any rate, I'm glad a lot of it was taken down with the tree trimming. Hopefully that will help.

Mistletoe Infestation copyright August 2009 


Michelle said...

Very interesting! I see mistletoe in trees around here occasionally, but it doesn't seem all that common. A sprig in a cellophane bag sells for a pretty penny around the holidays; maybe you could save this somehow and sell it at craft fairs or farmers' markets? Might pay for a fence post or two!

Life Looms Large said...

At the very least, you and your sweetie can kiss when you walk under mistletoe!!

It's interesting that mistletoe grows that way.

If you do create walking paths on your property, you'll probably uncover even more interesting things there!


Theresa said...

Many of the oaks in Oregon and Washington are covered with it. Washington State supplies much of the mistletoe during the holiday season, along with holly.
I remember way back when Mt. St. Helen blew and the holly and mistletoe were covered in ash. I can't say if it kills the trees or not but it certainly overtakes dying trees.

bspinner said...

Interesting!!! I never realized mistoe could harm trees. As far as I know we've never had any of our property and I haven't seen while walking in the woods. Do you have any bittersweet?

Julie said...

I never knew that about mistletoe. I had always thought of mistletoe as a good thing because its what we kiss under at Christmas time! I hope your tree's will be ok!

Woolly Bits said...

I don't think it will damage your tree - the plant does put "roots" into the tree, but it only takes a bit of sap and nutrients, which should do no harm to a fully grown tree. might be the same story as with lichen. some people say they do damage to trees - but in fact many lichen only grow on trees in masses, when the tree is on the decline anyway. call me stupid, but a few years ago I tried all kinds of things to attach mistletoe seeds to some of my trees - and they didn't grow:(( usually birds spread the seeds by either wiping their beaks (the berry contains a rather sticky sap) or by spreading it with their faeces. they do only grow on specific hosts and who knows from which plant my german mistletoe seeds came? anyway, I'd be delighted to have some in my trees - it's an old druid plant with loads of lore and history!

Woody said...

How cool. I haven't a clue if it causes damage.

Leigh said...

Michelle, that's a good idea! Too bad it's so high up.

Sue, I agree. And those walking paths are on my "to do" list.

Theresa, those old trees are probably near the end of their life cycle, which is a shame.

Barb, I had to look up some bittersweet photos. It looks familiar, but I can't say that I've seen it on our property.

Bettina, that's the 2nd thing you've tried to grow that I wanted to get rid of! Too funny. Actually, those old trees are covered with lichen as well. I've never tried dyeing with lichen, but this may be a good time to try.

Hi Woody, and thanks for the comment!