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Dwarf Mistletoe

Dwarf Mistletoe
William Jacobi / Colorado State University,
Dwarf Mistletoe

Dwarf mistletoes are small parasitic plants in the genus Arceuthobium. They are distinguished from the leafy ‘true’ or ‘holiday’ mistletoes.

Dwarf mistletoes have very little green chlorophyll, so they grow “roots” into the stem of their host tree (pine, fir, hemlock) and extract nutrients and water, slowing growth, reducing host vigor and making them more susceptible to other pests. Climate change is likely to alter the current range and abundance of dwarf mistletoe species.

Witches brooms often form at the base of the mistletoe, which can provide fuel ladders for fires to reach the tree crown, but also provide nesting habitat for birds and small mammals.

Dwarf mistletoe seeds discharge explosively, shooting off at an initial velocity of about 85 feet per second (60 miles per hour), but only for a short distance (15-40 feet). Seeds are sticky and will adhere to most objects they strike, including new host trees growing nearby. Dwarf mistletoes can be reliably managed to desirable disease levels through forest silvicultural practices. For more information, contact Paul Hennon, a Research Plant Pathologist with the Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Find research publications about dwarf mistletoe on Treesearch.