First Aid for Your Trees, Servicing the Greater Tampa Bay Area

Mistletoe on Your Tree May be a Kiss… of Death!


Mistletoe branch close upFor many people, the idea or the thought of the term mistletoe prompts ideas of holiday celebrations where you can steal a kiss or two. However, when it’s not being used as a decoration, mistletoe is a parasitic plant that poses a threat to healthy trees. The plant attaches itself to a branch and draws water and nutrients from the tree.
Like an out-of-control party guest, mistletoe has some bad effects. If allowed to mature on your tree, its toxic berries could be noticed by children and eaten. But that slim possibility is not your major tree health care concern once mistletoe starts growing.

While many shrubs are earthbound, the mistletoe does not need to attach itself to the ground to exert its opportunistic parasite characteristics. The shrub sends its root-like structures inside tree branches and begins its destructive effects. While the plant’s effect can be minimal on a tree, in severe infestations it is capable of killing a tree, such as an oak. It’s not a surprise the plant’s genus name is Phoradendron, which means thief of the tree.

But how did mistletoe get on my tree?

Simply put, birds eat mistletoe berries from the plant itself. Later, while flying, the bird will dispose of the ingested seed (in the usual manner). Some of those seeds land on trees and eventually grow attached to branches. And the damage begins.

Mistletoe growing all over a treeHow Mistletoe Damages Your Tree

Like all plants, mistletoe needs food and water. Since its roots aren’t on the ground, it taps into the food and water supply of your tree. As the mistletoe matures it takes more of your tree’s nutrients. The affected branch or branches and the entire tree then weakens. The very berries the mistletoe produces may be eaten by birds and the process repeats.

Stopping Mistletoe’s Attack

Because mistletoe is often located fairly high on your tree, just accessing it is difficult. But assuming you’re eye-to-eye with the parasite, what are your options?

1. Just snap it off at the base? Bad idea. The root will still be underneath, ready to grow again.
2. Buy some chemical treatment to spray on it, in an effort to kill it? Again, this approach will undoubtedly adversely affect your tree. Remember, the mistletoe and your tree share food and water.
3. Limb removal, which in itself takes knowledge and expertise.

Don’t Risk Life and Limb

When mistletoe attaches itself to your tree, it’s a wise move to let professionals not only inform you of all options but take the proper action. At Tree Medics, saving sick trees is one of our primary priorities. Our staff includes an ISA Certified arborist, so you can rest assured that your tree health care services are in good hands. Mistletoe can be a problem during any time of the year, so contact your Tree Medics Certified Arborist today at (813) 407-9974 for more advice.

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