I've seen them. You probably seen them too and none of us knew what they were. I'm talking about the ball of leaves in our trees. They are very visible during the fall and winter months with the leaves have fallen. If you saw them, you probably assumed the same as me, that the round bunch of leaves was some type of bird nest. Well, even though birds have a lot to do with them being there, they are not bird nests.

According to the LSUAg Center, it's Mistletoe and it's not good for our trees. Is it a parasitic seed plant that attaches itself to host trees and grows in balls. Mistletoe will grow on the branches of all kinds of trees from pecan, and oak to sycamore, ash, elm, and many others. This chlorophyllous parasite produces pea-sized white berries that birds love to feast on.

The berry has a sticky seed-like pulp inside and birds will rub their beaks on the tree branches to remove it. Unfortunately, that is how mistletoe spreads from tree to tree. In case you were wondering, yes, mistletoe can kill your trees because it robs the branches it grows upon of water and nutrients. This process can severely compromise a tree's health, especially during a drought. This parasitic bush can get big, weighing up to 90 pounds, breaking the tree's weakened branches in the process.

Healthy trees can be heavily damaged due to the additional weight on branches containing the plant parasite. Once the seed from the mistletoe berry grows into a seedling, it gets a root-like haustoria that digs into a tree’s vascular system. This part of the tree transports water and dissolved minerals from the roots to the leaves.


Mistletoe is hard to kill. If you don't kill the root that is attached to the tree, the bush will grow back. Removal of a bad branch is a good idea, however, birds may bring new seeds and start the whole thing again. The best bet with the best results experts with the Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program is to use the growth regulator ethephon. Also, make sure you water your trees during dry seasons or drought to keep them healthy.

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