AMERICAN MISTLETOE

FAMILY: Loranthaceae | GENUS: PHORADENDRON serotinum

TYPE
  • Evergreen
  • Shrubs
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Full Sun
  • Partial Shade
WATER
  • Regular Water
PLANTING ZONES
  • US (Upper South) / Zone 6
  • MS (Middle South) / Zone 7
  • LS (Lower South) / Zone 8
  • CS (Coastal South) / Zone 9
  • TS (Tropical South) / Zone 10
  • TS (Tropical South) / Zone 11

Plant Details

Native from New Jersey to Florida, west to southern Illinois and Texas. The deep green boughs of mistletoe are familiar sights in the South in winter, when they festoon the leafless branches of deciduous trees. Growing 13 feet tall and wide, this plant begins its life as a seed dropped by a bird onto the branch of a host tree. The seed quickly sprouts rootlike structures which penetrate the bark and tap into the flow of water and nutrients. Leathery, oval leaves, about 1 inches long, line mistletoe's crowded, forked branches. Small whitish flowers appear in late spring to early summer and are followed by clusters of single-seeded white berries. Although commonly thought to be highly poisonous, the berries are only moderately toxic; one would have to con- sume a large quantity to become seriously ill. In ancient times, people associated the berries with fertility; this may explain the custom of kissing under the mistletoe.

Mistletoe infests more than 100 species of hardwood trees; oaks, particularly water oak (Quercus nigra), are its favorite hosts. Others include hickory and pecan (Carya), honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), apple, hawthorn (Crataegus), and linden (Tilia). In most cases, the host tree is not seriously harmed. Pruning mistletoe removes it only temporarily; it will grow back from the point of attachment. For permanent removal, the infested branch must be removed at least 1 feet below the point of attachment. But since this process may disfigure the treeand reinfestation from nearby trees is likely it's usually best to leave the tree alone. Mistletoe is the state flower of Oklahoma.

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