Most people have heard of mistletoe and the tradition of hanging it at this time a year for a sweet kiss or two while standing directly under the lucky plant. Its history goes back to the old Druid beliefs that it brought good luck, health, prosperity, a good harvest and even marriage.
Did you know that mistletoe is indigenous to the Sonoran Desert? Desert mistletoe is a year round common plant with a misconceived notion that it is a tree killer. It is, in fact, a parasite and it’s more than likely growing in your backyard trees if you have Ironwood or Mesquite trees as part of your landscape.
Take a look and you may see some distinctive green clumps throughout the limbs, that’s mistletoe and with proper maintenance it doesn’t mean a kiss of death for your beautiful trees. It’s obvious when it becomes a problem because the green clumpy growth is extensive and looks unlike most of the other tree. It takes years to get to the clumpy stage so a quick diagnosis is the life saver of your expensive trees.
Typically, since desert mistletoe grows so slowly, it’s usually does not become a problem if diagnosed early. The trick is to keep your trees happy and healthy with proper watering, and as pest and disease free as a possible. Prevention is the key to preventing an infestation; just like our health, prevention is the first step to plant health.
If you do spot it, prune it out immediately with care so it doesn’t get a firm hold. If it has clustered, it may be difficult if not impossible to remove without weakening the tree. You’ll want to keep up a constant maintenance to “starve it out” if possible.
And, since it’s the season, the next time you are out for a desert hike, just pick some of the lucky plant and hang it on your door jamb. Be sure to kiss your loved ones for the good omens associated with this plant!
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