Mistletoe 2684556 1280
Under the Mistletoe
by Eric Nunez
on November 30, 2023

With the holidays upon us, we may steal a kiss or two under the mistletoe, but did you know mistletoes themselves steal life from trees? Yes, mistletoes are parasites! Out of the ten species of mistletoe found in California, only one is non-native. Thankfully, only native species have been observed in Santa Cruz County including Pine Dwarf Mistletoe (Arceuthobium campylopodum), Bollean Mistletoe (Phoradendron bolleanum), American Mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum), and two without common names, Phoradendron leucarpum ssp. tomentosum and Phoradendron juniperinum.

Much like dodder, mistletoes insert root-like structures into the stems and trunks of trees to siphon off water, carbohydrates, and inorganic nutrients as these parasitic plants have no way of accessing and/or creating these essential resources themselves. A tree inhabited by mistletoe transpires much more water than a mistletoe-free tree since water efficiency is not a common trait amongst mistletoes, thus adding stress to the tree. Yet another textbook example of parasitism.

So, steal that kiss, be merry, and from all of us at the Land Trust, Happy Holidays!

References: CalFlora Website and Dwarf Mistletoe Basics | Forest Pathology,