The Mistletoe Menace
I do a lot of driving in Euless, Bedford, Hurst, Grapevine, Colleyville, Southlake, and surrounding areas. Recently, I’ve noticed a considerable amount of mistletoe in the trees. In some cases, it looks like the this menace has taken over the entire tree. This would be the case in my neighbor’s tree, which prompted me to write this article.
WHAT GOOD IS MISTLETOE?
Other than stealing a kiss during the holiday season, mistletoe has no real benefit. Like most homeowners, you’re probably concerned about the damaging effects this parasite (yes, parasite) may have on your trees. That’s a legitimate concern and one that should be addressed for the health of not only the infected tree but the trees around it.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Why be concerned? Although, Mistletoe does create its own food through photosynthesis, it also competes with the host tree for water and nutrients. In lightly infected trees, you will commonly observe weakened or sometimes dead branches. In more heavily infected trees, you may notice stunted growth or even the death of the tree, especially in cases where the tree is struggling with other problems, like our Texas drought. So, the mistletoe might not necessarily kill the tree on its own, but it can weaken the tree enough that when combined with other issues, could ultimately result in the loss of the tree.
Another concern is the way this parasite is spread from one tree to another. Birds are attracted to the berries that mistletoe produces. They feed on the pulp of the berries and deposit their droppings on the new host trees. The seeds are covered in a sticky substance making it easy to attach to the new host. Once germination takes place, the rooting process begins and the mistletoe establishes itself on the new host.
TIME FOR ACTION
What to do? It’s advised to remove small limbs by pruning at least 12 inches out from the mistletoe. When it comes to growth on larger limbs or the tree’s trunk, it is sometimes better to only cut out the mistletoe. Each situation should be evaluated individually. You don’t want to compromise the structure of the tree by cutting too much. You don’t want to solve one problem only to create another. Remember, over pruning can damage the tree.
According to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System, “trees vary in susceptibility to the mistletoe. Cedars and Junipers are not bothered by this plant. Also, Pecan trees, Live oaks, and Magnolias are seldom infected with mistletoe. Water oaks, Spanish oaks, Elms, and Hackberry trees are frequently infested with the parasite. When selecting a tree for your landscape, check with local arborists, nurseries, or your County Extension Agent for trees that are adapted to your area and are not susceptible to mistletoe.”