Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mistletoe

Mistletoe: species Phoradendron
(Greek for "tree thief")
Twenty winters ago when we first moved to Texas, I was stumped by these clusters of green high up in the otherwise leafless branches of some trees.  The only mistletoe I had ever seen was either plastic or already clipped and part of a Christmas decoration. 


Once the tree's own leaves have fallen in the autumn,
the plump green balls of mistletoe become very easy to spot. 

In centuries past, a plant that managed to stay green through the winter and bear fruit during the coldest part of the year became a symbol of abiding life.  Decorating with mistletoe, holly, ivy at the turn of the year was as popular with the Romans and Celts as it is today with those of us making wreaths and garlands for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  And cutting mistletoe is good for the tree that acts as host: mistletoe is a parasite.

Birds love the little white berries, and after a tasty meal they eventually leave behind the undigested mistletoe seeds (stuck with glue-like strength to whichever tree branch the bird used as an outhouse).  Some trees such as hackberry and elm make perfect hosts.  The roots of the mistletoe penetrate the bark and grow right into the tree's vascular system.  Water and nutrients are diverted from the tree's sap to feed the mistletoe.


If you look closely at the center of this photograph you will see two little white berries.  I took this clipping before any other berries could form.  Mistletoe alone will not kill a tree, but it will weaken its host to the point where the tree becomes susceptible to attack by other pests or diseases.


Pruning the mistletoe, if you can reach it, is a good idea.  Take the cutting a good twelve inches below where the ball has attached itself to the limb.  Mistletoe on a trunk can easily be snapped off (preferably before the berries set).  The leaves and stems are pliable and similar to a succulent like Kalanchoe in texture.

The water level out at the lake is slowly continuing to inch up!


3 comments:

  1. Suzanne, I am thoroughly enjoying your house progress. Love the doors and boathouse. Bart

    ReplyDelete
  2. Suzanne,
    Especially like the doors. I am enjoying watching the house go up.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The water is rising! What a beautiful boat house!

    ReplyDelete