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Mistletoe: Not Just Holiday Tradition, But Also A Threat To Trees

When people think of mistletoe, they are likely reminded of the holiday tradition where two people standing under a sprig of mistletoe share a kiss. Although it’s normal to see mistletoe used as a holiday decoration or hung on a doorframe, one place where it’s never good to see mistletoe is up in trees growing on residential properties. Mistletoe is an evergreen parasitic plant that can grow on trees and will harm the host tree’s health over time. The mistletoe plant has become more evident throughout the Houston area as area deciduous trees have lost their leaves, revealing the thick clusters of mistletoe up near the crowns of trees.

It is important for residential tree owners to understand the biology, dangers and removal methods for mistletoe in order to protect and preserve the life of their healthy shade or ornamental trees. First, mistletoe plants often appear in broadleaf or hardwood trees such as oak, elm, ash, beech, dogwoods and sugarberry trees, and have been spotted in over 100 different tree species within the U.S. Because the mistletoe is an evergreen plant, it will often remain undetected within host trees until the leaves of deciduous trees fall in the winter months. During that time the mistletoe may produce seeds or berries that can easily be spread by the birds that often feast on the small, white berries. For this reason, mistletoe is most often found in the tops of trees where birds like to perch.

When mistletoe plants begin to grow on a healthy shade or ornamental tree, the tree will begin to experience a decrease in both water and nutrient absorption. It is not considered a deadly parasitic plant on its own, but if it attaches itself to a tree already weakened by droughtdisease or poor nutrient intake, then the mistletoe can easily contribute to significant tree damage or even tree death. For healthy trees with mistletoe clusters, the draining of vital nutrients can lead to branch death, jeopardizing the tree’s future health, stability and value.

If a tree on a residential property displays clusters of evergreen mistletoe, it is critical to have Certified Arborists inspect the tree and begin removing the plant through strategic pruning. This step can help save the life of the tree and prevent the mistletoe plant from spreading to other healthy shade trees on the property. Because of the high location of mistletoe plants within tree crowns, and the specific removal and treatment methods involved, only Certified Arborists should perform the service, and not amateur tree workers who might not be able to successfully remove or treat the mistletoe plants without harming the tree.

Embark Services is pleased to be Houston’s single-source solution for all tree care needs, including mistletoe removal and treatment. Embark Services offers a full range of high-quality tree and landscape services, including tree trimmingtree removaltree planting, and irrigation installation. Embark Services’s work is performed by trained and experienced Certified Arborists and Landscape Professionals who utilize both state-of-the-art equipment as well as industry-leading safety techniques. Contact Embark Services for more information, or go online to request a free consultation with their team of tree and landscape experts.