Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mistletoe With Berries

This mistletoe with berries is growing on a Grancy Graybeard. There are three small mistletoe plants growing on this tree (bush) but only one has seed. The species of mistletoe most common in the Southeast is Phoradendron  flavescens (also called Phoradendron leucarpum).
Mistletoe is a hemiparasite and takes water and minerals from its host, but it has chlorophyll and produces all or most of it's own food. It generally does not become a heavy enough infestation to degrade the quality or quantity of a wood crop, however western species do damage and degrade the quality of the wood they infest. Mistletoe is spread by birds eating the berries. The seed may spread through the droppings of birds. Also the berries and seed are sticky. This helps the seed to stay on the branch till the hostorum can invade the limb and the plant can become "rooted" into the branch. Birds get the seed stuck on their bills and wipe them against the limbs to clean them off, thus placing the seed on a suitable growing substrate.
 Mistletoe is a historical Christmas and New Year's decoration, involving kissing the number of times there are berries on the plant. But mistletoe also is a larval host for several butterfly species, as well as a food source for birds. Winter is, of course the best time of year for spotting mistletoe as it is not camouflaged by the leaves. 

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