The other day, my son Kai asked me what mistletoe was. I explained that it was a little plant that grew on trees that people hung over doorways during the holidays. At this point, he looked a little puzzled at why people would want to hang a plant over the door. But as I went on to explain that couples would then kiss each other if they were underneath the mistletoe, Kai’s expression turned into one of disgust……evidently kissing girls is not something any 8-year old boy wants to do 😉
On the other hand, if you mention the word ‘mistletoe’ to an arborist or desert-dweller, you are likely to get similar expressions of unhappiness on our faces. Not because we don’t like kissing our sweethearts underneath the mistletoe – but because visions of a different type of mistletoe comes to mind which has absolutely nothing to do with kissing or the holidays.
You may notice that this type of mistletoe does not resemble the mistletoe that we traditionally see during Christmas. Well, it is a parasitic plant like the traditional holiday mistletoe and they both belong to the same genus Phoradendron which means ‘thief of a tree’.
I took this photo at a client’s home. He had no idea that his Mesquite tree was infected. Palo Verde, Ironwood and Acacia trees are also types of trees that are also infected.
Mistletoe is much easier to spot during the winter months when trees do not have as many leaves. Each year on the golf courses, we would do an inventory of all the trees to determine which ones had mistletoe so that it could be removed by pruning.
If you have a large branch infected and do not want to prune the branch, you can dedicate yourself to brush off the mistletoe. It comes off very easily by just rubbing it off with your hands. This method does NOT get rid of the infection inside of the tree branch and the mistletoe will regrow – meaning that you will have to remove the new growth as part of your garden maintenance.
And so, I encourage you to enjoy mistletoe…..as long as it hangs above a doorway AND you can find someone to kiss 😉