Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that thrives on other living plants for water and nutrients. Because it does not have a true root system, it feeds on a host tree using root-like projections called haustoria. These projections penetrate the host tree and suck out water and nutrients, thereby earning the name “Vampire plant”. It can weaken and even kill a stressed tree, especially if its drought weakened. There are no chemical controls. Cut off affected limbs about 18″ or more below the point of mistletoe attachment. If this isn’t possible, remove mistletoe and wrap the infected area with black plastic to suppress resprouting.

There are over 1500 species worldwide, and several species are common in the southern states that grow on deciduous and evergreen trees. Some mistletoe is harvested in Oklahoma and Texas for holiday decor. You do not have to preserve mistletoe after it’s picked, it will dry.

Caution: All parts of the plants are poisonous. For safety reasons, the waxy berries are replaced with fake berries. That’s probably why they hang it from doorways and ceilings; to keep it away from children and animals.

Art Phillips, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Posted in General, Trees