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Monday, January 25, 2010

Mistletoe

I never wondered where mistletoe came from.  Mistletoe was just mistletoe.  You brought it out at Christmas time, and tucked it away for the remainder of the year.  So it was with amazement when I first traveled to Texas a number of years ago to spend Christmas with family.  And there, amidst the barren branches of the local trees, were these beautifully green clumps.  Everywhere!


Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on conifers, hardwoods, and shrubs  over much of the temperate regions of the US.  Different types of trees are hosts to different species of mistletoe, but they are all from the genera Phoradendron.

Although they are completely parasitic, they manufacture most of their own food by photosynthesis.  They only require water and mineral elements from their host plant in order to thrive. 

Birds that feed on the mistletoe berries are responsible for most of the infestation.  Birds will digest the pulp of the berries and excrete the seeds.  The seeds have a viscous coating and hair-like threads that cover their outer surface, making it easy for them to attach firmly to the branches of trees. 

Once the mistletoe becomes established on its host plant by a penetrating root system, it will eventually suck the life right out of it.  Only then will the mistletoe itself, die.

I'm still fascinated by mistletoe every time I visit Texas.  These pictures were shot from the dry bed of Cibolo Creek outside of San Antonio.  Tomorrow I'll post a few photos of the creek bed with it's interesting rock formations.  It was a pleasant day away from, but within easy access to, the city.
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3 comments:

Carrie P. said...

Mistletoe is fascinating. We have spotted in trees around here in NC.

Kirsten said...

Wow, mom, mistletoe. I guess, growing up in Texas, I am used to seeing it.
I'm still disappointed that we didn't see any birds on our hike thru the creek bed. Looking forward to tomorrow's pics.

Stephanie said...

Mistletoe, Christmas, kisses--who'd have thought it was a parasitic plant!