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Mistletoe and Trees

Mistletoe infestation on Red Maple

Mistletoe infestation on a red maple

To many people mistletoe evokes memories of festive Christmas decorations hung over the doorway to encourage a customary kiss.

To an arborist, mistletoe is a parasitic plant that attaches to the branches of trees so it can share the plant’s water and nutrients – weakening it. Mistletoe can even kill them with a heavy infestation.

Once a mistletoe plant is established on its host plant, if caught early enough, it usually is possible to save the branch by pruning and careful removal of the wood invaded by the haustorium (the appendage of the parasitic mistletoe that penetrates the host’s tissue). Some species of mistletoe can regenerate if the pruning leaves any of the haustorium alive in the wood – so it’s best to leave this to a professional arborist.

A witches’-broom (a cluster of twigs that start growing in the same location) will sometimes form near these mistletoe-infested branches. A witches broom can also be generated if insects or disease are attacking the tree.

In the wild and the forests, the presence of mistletoe can be a positive one. It provides habitat and food with its berries for a broad range of forest creatures and stimulates a greater diversity of wildlife.

If you notice mistletoe growing on a valuable specimen in your landscape contact Wood Acres Tree Specialists for diagnosis and treatment. Pro-Active, ongoing care of your trees can lead to a longer, more beautiful life for your trees in Montgomery County, MD and Washington DC.

Shown is a mistletoe infection on a red maple in Washington DC.

Tree with mistletoe

Tree with mistletoe

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