Mistletoe With Blooms

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Austin, United States

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Mistletoe – Best VIEWED LARGER
There are many different species of Mistletoe, over 900 of them!

Walking around today, with a really nice warm day, in the 70’s, with an overcast sky, I enjoyed the first hints of spring. I as surprised to see the Mistletoe already blooming and producing fruit. This one is just blooming. Mistletoe is mainly parasitic, though it does do some photosynthesis. It starts as a seed and eventually inserts roots into the tree, where it secures water and nutrients. If a tree becomes too infested with Mistletoe, the parasite can kill the tree. But Mistletoe does inhibit the growth of the tree any time it attaches itself to one.

As visible in the next photo, it produces white, berry-like fruit. Fortunately, it usually grows high up in the trees, because Wikipedia states of the fruit: “It is a poisonous plant that causes acute gastrointestinal problems including stomach pain and diarrhea along with low pulse.” So the moral of the story is, don’t eat it….

But Mistletoe is not a “useless” plant. Far from it. It attracts and feeds some birds. Wikipedia:
“A broad array of animals depend on mistletoe for food, consuming the leaves and young shoots, transferring pollen between plants, and dispersing the sticky seeds. In western North America their juicy berries are eaten and spread by birds (notably Phainopepla, or silky-flycatcher). When eaten, some seeds pass unharmed through their digestive systems; if the birds’ droppings happen to land on a suitable branch, the seeds may stick long enough to germinate. As the plants mature, they grow into masses of branching stems which suggest the popular name “witches’ brooms”. The dense evergreen witches’ brooms formed by the dwarf mistletoes (Arceuthobium species) of western North America also make excellent locations for roosting and nesting of the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet. The Navajo name for mistletoe translates to “basket on high.” In Australia the diamond firetail and painted honeyeater are recorded as nesting in different mistletoes. This behavior is probably far more widespread than currently recognized; more than 240 species of birds that nest in foliage in Australia have been recorded nesting in mistletoe, representing more than 75% of the resident birds."

Here’s the Wikipedia link for Mistletoe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mistletoe

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  • Ann  Warrenton
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