What to do about Mistletoe

Mistletoe grows in many parts of Europe and North America. In Central Texas, you are most likely to see this parasitic plant or shrub on an oak tree or cedar elm. Mistletoe is parasitic because it draws the host’s carbohydrates into itself. It can contribute to water and food loss and cause tree death in extreme cases, especially during drought conditions.

What does Mistletoe do to a tree?

Mistletoe steals nutrients and water from its host tree. The little, shrub-like plant sends out roots called haustoria into the cambium of a tree and takes over the tree’s carbohydrate and moisture sources. Overall, this won’t harm a tree unless it has a lot of mistletoe plants on it. Each plant can only steal so much from the host tree. Of course, it can reduce the production of a tree since some of its resources are impacted. This parasitic plant can also cause problems for a tree that is stressed due to soil compaction or drought. Even the little bit of moisture and nutrients it steals can make a big difference when a tree is already under stress.

Is mistletoe easy to get rid of?

It is generally considered to be easy to get rid of mistletoe. However, the plant can be stubborn and it may spring back. Simply cutting the twigs and leaves will not kill the mistletoe from your tree. You need to actively kill the roots and, with it, the entire plant.

What’s a non-chemical way to remove mistletoe?

The best – and probably the safest – way to get rid of mistletoe is without using chemicals of any sort. You simply prune it out, or hire us to do it. We are experts at mistletoe removal. A certified arborist like the one we have on staff knows best how to remove large pieces of wood without adversely affecting the tree’s health. If you do the pruning yourself, you will want to remove the infested material back to the branch collar.

To kill the growth permanently, you must cut back the leaves and stems to the wood and then wrap the area with wide, black polyethylene to block light and prevent it from re-sprouting. Consistently cutting out the growth will not do the trick. It just doesn’t kill the plant. It will, however, prevent it from flowering and creating seeds that will spread the mistletoe to other parts of the tree or other trees in your yard.

What about using chemicals to get rid of mistletoe?

If you want to control mistletoe by using chemicals, you really should seek professional help. It’s kind of a last resort treatment. You should only attempt chemicals when nothing else has worked or other methods are just not practical. Spring spraying of the growth regulator ethephon has been shown to have some effect on eradicating mistletoe. The leaves of the mistletoe must be completely wet for this treatment to work. The process needs to be done before the host tree has leafed out.

Truthfully, most trees are able to withstand these parasitic infestations. Removal is not absolutely necessary. You can promote good tree health by adequately watering it and fertilizing it in spring. However, we are certainly happy to help with mistletoe removal. You may call us at 512-341-8888 for more information.