Mistletoe growing in a row of dormant trees. (Photo: Michael Gaida)

Are you worried about mistletoe growing in your landscape trees? It may or may not be a cause for concern. You’ve probably noticed many trees have mistletoe growing in them and continue to survive.  However,  an infestation on a tree already weakened by drought or that has other problems might spell trouble in the future.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that steals water and nutrients from trees. The plant has pretty white berries that attract birds like robins and cedar waxwings. Birds eat the berries, perch on other branches and nearby trees,  and poop out digested seeds. This helps spread the plant around. (The berries are toxic to humans). The seeds infest new branches and other trees with new plants that grow slowly for several years before they mature and begin blooming.

Mistletoe: Should You Take Action?

If you have a young tree with mistletoe, prune out small twigs or branches that have it. In larger, healthier trees, a few sprigs aren’t terribly harmful. If the problem is near the end of a branch, measure back one foot and cut off that part of the branch. If it’s not possible to prune off the branch and you can safely and easily reach the mistletoe, cut it off at the base. It may grow back, but this will weaken the parasite.

If your tree has a large infestation, and you are worried about its health, consult a certified arborist. They may recommend pruning or possibly tree removal. It’s best to consult an arborist that is certified and insured. Arborists are professionals that understand tree health and will know the best options. Call a local nursery and ask for a recommendation.

If you remove a tree infested by mistletoe and want to plant something new, ask your local nursery for a recommendation of mistletoe resistant tree varieties.