Mistletoe, a hemiparasite that supports myths and legends

Mistletoe stands out with its small white berries and ball shape. A symbol of love, eternity and well-being, it was also used in ancient times for its healing properties, as well as by druids in the time of the Gauls. However, it can very weaken the trees on which he decides to settle. Although it is not a parasite, but rather a hemiparasite, it can still have a strong influence on the proper development of the trees on which it chooses to settle. Understanding how it works will allow you to recognize it and know what to do to remove it.

How to recognize mistletoe?

To find mistletoe (Album Viscum), you have to look up! This plant, which has no roots, does not grow in the ground, and therefore has to attach itself to other trees in order to develop. Sometimes confused with holly, whose fruits are red, mistletoe can be recognized by its small translucent white balls. Its rounded and articulated stems, which also divide into two parts its spherical shape are also characteristic features.

Its rounded and articulated stems, which are divided into two parts, as well as the shape of a ball, make it possible to distinguish mistletoe.
Its rounded and articulated stems, which are divided into two parts, as well as the shape of a ball, make it possible to distinguish mistletoe. 

Which trees inhabit mistletoe?

As a hemiparasitic plantthe mistletoe settles on the host, from which it will draw the water and minerals needed for its proper development. However, it creates its own sap thanks to its evergreen leaves, which carry out photosynthesis. For this reason, it is not considered a parasite as such.

It occurs mainly on poplars and apple trees, but also on pear, hawthorn, willow and linden trees. A variety of mistletoe (Viscum album abietis) can also colonize fir trees. On the other hand, it is rare to find it on oak and never on beech or maple.

How does mistletoe get on trees?

Mistletoe propagation is mainly caused by birds thrushes who love its berries. When they eat them, the seeds sometimes stick to their beaks and are then deposited on tree branches. They can then germinate. Propagation of mistletoe seeds can also be done through the droppings of birds that have eaten the fruits.

Mistletoe is propagated by birds that feast on its fruits.
Mistletoe is propagated by birds that feast on its fruits. 

Does mistletoe harm trees?

Once placed on a tree branch, the mistletoe seed will germinate and form an attachment cone. The sucker then penetrates the tree to extract the sap. When mistletoe is abundant, it can weaken the tree that serves as its host and eventually slow down its growth. This can also affect the quality of its wood.

How to get rid of mistletoe?

There is no treatment to get rid of mistletoe and it is not easy to remove because its suckers burrow deep into the bark of the tree that serves as its host. If the mistletoe has been installed for several years, the most effective way to remove it is to prune the infested branches.

Is mistletoe edible?

Mistletoe berries are toxic to humans and can cause both digestive and cardiovascular problems. Its leaves have medicinal properties, but should only be used under medical supervision.

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