When you read the word “mistletoe,” your mind likely takes you to thoughts of warm holiday moments with the one you love. And while those thoughts aren’t uncommon, mistletoe is much more than a symbolic token of the love between two people. It’s actually a fascinating shrub that embodies the spirit of quiet perseverance.
However, it can be problematic for certain plant species if left to grow uncontrollably. But does mistletoe harm trees, specifically? Read on to find out.
The Biology of Mistletoe
Before we get into whether or not mistletoe is harmful to trees, it’s best to take a moment to understand the growth patterns of the plant and the conditions in which it grows well. First, mistletoe grows in ball-shaped masses, and it can grow on more than 100 different tree species. But its favorite hosts are typically pecan, hickory oak, and red maple trees. It’s a small, semiparasitic shrub species that takes root in the branches of a tree rather than rooting itself in the soil. Because of this, mistletoe is partially reliant on its host for the water and nutrients it needs to survive.
It’s worth noting that mistletoe is technically a green plant. This means it can make its own food and therefore doesn’t wholly deplete its host tree of nutrients. This isn’t to imply that mistletoe isn’t an issue, but it does mean it’s not always an immediate threat. So just how harmful can it be?
How Harmful Is Mistletoe to My Trees?
Of course, you’re probably still asking yourself, “Does mistletoe harm trees?”. And the answer to that question is: it depends. Because it spreads and grows relatively slowly, mistletoe is rarely—if ever—an immediate threat to the health of its host. Most healthy trees should be more than capable of tolerating a few mistletoe plants with minimal harm. In fact, a moderate population of mistletoe indicates a healthy, thriving ecosystem of diverse plants and animals.
That said, when these small masses completely overrun a tree, they can stunt its growth, reduce its vigor, and even kill the tree if other factors such as drought, extreme temperatures, or root damage are parts of the equation.
What Are the Best Ways To Control It?
Mistletoe isn’t necessarily a death sentence for your trees, but if you don’t control it properly, it can have a drastic effect on their health and overall quality of life. For this reason, when you start to see mistletoe making a home out of your tall, green friends, it’s wise to keep an eye on it. It’s also a good idea to give your trees a bit of extra water and nutrient boost in their soil.
Furthermore, if you notice that one mistletoe plant has multiplied into four or five overnight, it’s worth calling an arborist to prune the infected branches. And if you happen to live in the Lone Star State, call SID Mourning Tree Service. We’ll answer all your mistletoe questions and set you up with an arborist with the expertise to conduct the best ball moss removals in Austin, Texas.