Can Mistletoe Kill Trees?

Mistletoe grows wild on a variety of trees species. It can be found in most of the United States and Europe. And while Mistletoe is associated with many traditions and medical cures, it is a pest.

Potential Damage to Trees

Mistletoe is a small evergreen shrub that embeds its rootlike structures into a tree branch, stealing water and nutrients from its host. If enough nutrients are drained from the branch, it will die. If not removed, the Mistletoe will reproduce. A tree that is infested with Mistletoe is vulnerable and might not survive a drought.

While a weak or damaged tree could die from a Mistletoe infestation, the chances of that happening are decreased if the Mistletoe is removed. Following proper watering protocols for your tree and landscape will also help your tree’s chances of survival.

Removal & Control

Mistletoe found on tree branches should be removed regularly—either by pruning or a growth regulating chemical. If they are not removed or controlled, the shrubs will go to seed, spreading throughout the tree’s canopy and to nearby trees.

Pruning

Before a Mistletoe kills a tree, it first kills host branches. Merely cutting a shrub from a branch will not kill the Mistletoe. It will eventually grow back. The infested branch must be removed to ensure the Mistletoe shrub does not return.

Additionally, any branches killed by Mistletoe should be removed, as they are a hazard to surrounding life and property.

Growth Regulation

When using a growth regulator, the Mistletoe shrub must be sprayed directly. If the chemical is sprayed on the whole canopy the growth of the host tree will be affected. Hiring a qualified arborist will help to avoid any unintentional and unnecessary harm to the host tree. For more information on the proper use of growth regulation on Mistletoe, contact a local ISA certified arborist.

Spotting Mistletoe

The best time to spot Mistletoe is during the fall and winter months. The evergreen shrubs are easy to find on bare, leafless branches.

In North Texas, the tree species most likely to be infested with Mistletoe are oaks and cedar elms. But be sure to inspect all the trees in your yard. Mistletoe shrubs don’t play favorites. They will embed themselves into hackberries, pecan, hickory and maples as well.

If you have Mistletoe growing in your tree, the first step you should take is to ensure that the tree is getting the water and nutrients it needs. (For guidance on watering and nutrients, see Tiana’s Tree Care Tips.) The second step should be to determine when and how the Mistletoe should be removed. This decision is best made with the help of a certified arborist. Removing multiple branches from a tree can severely damage a tree’s health. It should only be done with careful consideration of the tree’s structure and longevity.

Benefits of Mistletoe to Your Yard

Mistletoe does offer benefits to the wildlife in your yard. Birds and insects eat the white berries. However, Mistletoe berries are toxic to most animals and humans. If harvested, Mistletoe should be kept out of the reach of children and pets.

Live in Denton County, Texas? Contact Tree Shepherds. Our ISA certified arborists can help you with all of your tree care needs.

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Krista White
Krista is a member of the marketing and education team at Tree Shepherds. A lifelong learner, she loves writing about anything from Hemingway to Quercus macrocarpa.