Mistletoe – ‘Tis the Season to Remove It

Now that the leaves have dropped from your deciduous trees, you may notice Mistletoe infections in the crowns.  Even though we like mistletoe as a Christmas and holiday decoration (or catching young maidens standing underneath hanging Mistletoe!), it is not good for the health of your trees.

Winter is the best time to remove Mistletoe since the plants are clearly evident and can be removed easily by an experienced tree climber.

Mistletoe is a semi-parasite, meaning that it derives some of its sustenance from the tree that it is growing on. It rarely kills a tree, but does weaken the tree, causing limb failure or breakage and an overall decline in health.

There is no “cure” for mistletoe.  Mistletoe is a sign of a tree that is under stress, normally due to cultural and environmental conditions.  A good plant health care program is the best prevention for Mistletoe as healthy trees are much less prone to infestation.

If your trees have mistletoe, the best treatment is to remove infected limbs if possible or removing the visible portion of the mistletoe on limbs that should not be removed.  Removing the entire limb removes the Mistletoe entirely.  Removing the Mistletoe only retards Mistletoe growth and keeps it from spreading into the rest of the crown and into neighboring trees.

Mistletoe spreads by birds which eat the fruit and then deposit the seeds onto limbs either in their droppings or by wiping the sticky seeds from their bills.  Removing mistletoe from infected limbs keeps the plant from producing seeds for at least two years and thus reduces the spread of the plant in your trees.

Scott Geer

Scott Geer

Scott Geer has a master's degree in forestry from Stephen F. Austin State University and is an ISA Board Certified Master Arborist.® He is also a graduate of the American Society of Consulting Arborists Academy.