MistletoeIn our Open Space, mistletoe is best seen during the winter when deciduous oaks lose their leaves. Mistletoe also occurs on some pine trees. The species of mistletoe on our oaks is Phoradendron villosum.
Birds propagate mistletoe, either in their droppings or when sticky white mistletoe seeds adhere to their bills that they wipe against a new host tree. When the seed sprouts, a modified root (called a haustorium) penetrates the host's bark and finds the cambium layer so that the newly-formed mistletoe plant can absorb water and nutrients from the host tree.
Mistletoe is a misunderstood plant. Although most people think of it as a parasite, it is only partially parasitic, or a "semiparasite." Note that the stems and leaves of the mistletoe plant are green, so it does produce some of its own chlorophyll. Therefore it makes some of its own food. It becomes more parasitic, however, whenever there is a drought--then the mistletoe will take water away from its host at the host's expense. Mistletoe dies if its host dies.
When you are out in the Open Space, search for mistletoe and other plants, lichens, and fungi that make their homes in our native trees.
Jerry Fritzke & Bob Brittain