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Gardening suggestions for mesquite trees infested with mistletoe

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: December, 2012, Page 106



GARDEN Q&A - ASK THE EXPERTS

Q - We have several mesquite trees that are infested with mistletoe. What should we do?

A - Mistletoe is considered an obligate parasite, meaning it cannot live independently of its host, explains Cathy Rymer, Certified Arborist and city of Chandler water conservation coordinator. It is spread by birds that transport the berries and deposit them on branches of desert trees. After germination, the mistletoe actually grows inside the tree tissues, much like roots in soil, absorbing water and nutrients from the tree.

The stems that you see on the exterior produce flowers and berries. Manually removing the exterior mistletoe controls its growth, but eventually it will grow back. Because mistletoe is growing inside the tree, it is difficult to eradicate without damaging the host. Any products applied to the exterior parts of the mistletoe will control that growth but not the interior portions of the plant.

Desert trees have evolved with this parasite, and unless you have a very heavy infestation, you can elect to leave it alone. Here is a link to more information ag.arizona.edu/pubs/diseases/az1308.pdf.

Also, mistletoe attracts phainopepla (black birds resembling cardinals) and other native birds to your landscape because the berries are an important food source. Read more about these birds at desertmuseum.org/books/nhsd_phainopepla.php.
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