What You Should Do About That Holiday Mistletoe In Your Tree

Certified Arborists Serving Ventura & Los Angeles Counties

News And Advice From The Leading Thousand Oaks Tree Trimming Company

You might only give mistletoe a thought once a year at the holidays. That’s when some people go for the tradition of hanging mistletoe above doorways and people are invited to give a kiss to someone who stands underneath the mistletoe with them. Without going back to 18th-century England to explore the bizarre beginning of that tradition, let’s just say that mistletoe actually exists in our midst year-round, and summer is a good time to tackle the job of mistletoe removal.

Here in the Conejo Valley you might see large clumps of mistletoe in one of our beautiful Oak trees. Mistletoe loves Oak trees, along with hardwood trees like Hickory, Maple, Birch, Walnut and Ash, although you don’t see nearly as many of these other trees in our warm climate. You might even spot mistletoe in evergreens such as Pine, Fir or Spruce.

Whichever species of tree you notice some mistletoe in, it will have a common effect: it can be harmful and perhaps even very harmful. The problem is that it is a parasitic plant — it extracts water and nutrients from its host, which can weaken and stress the tree. In severe infestations, mistletoe can cause:

  • Reduced growth
  • Branch dieback
  • Increased susceptibility to other pests and diseases

In extreme cases, it can kill the tree.

How to Get Rid of Mistletoe

You don’t have to get fancy when you’re trying to get rid of mistletoe — simply remove the mistletoe by pruning the affected branches at least 12 inches below the point of attachment. This helps ensure that all the mistletoe tissue is removed. One tip here if you’re a do-it-yourselfer: Disinfect your pruning tools in-between cuts to prevent the spread of disease.

Please note that the only way to successfully remove mistletoe is to prune the entire infected branch. If you just remove the shoots from your tree’s branches, the mistletoe’s roots can regrow the parasite.

We’d rather take the natural approach of healthy pruning, but you should be aware that you have the option of a chemical control for getting rid of mistletoe. Ethephon-based growth regulators can be applied to mistletoe and these chemicals cause the mistletoe to drop off the tree. However, they do not prevent regrowth and need to be reapplied as new growth appears.

If you spot some mistletoe in one of your trees, you may notice one of its characteristic growth habits: it’s probably waaaay up high in your tree. If so, please give us a call. We have the equipment to get up high safely. No sense jeopardizing your summer vacation with a high-arboreal accident.

How To Prevent Mistletoe From Growing

There are some simple but effective ways to reduce the chance of mistletoe growing in your trees in the first place. First, keep your trees healthy with proper watering, mulching and fertilization. Healthy trees are better able to resist and tolerate mistletoe infestations. We’re not in an area that is particularly prone to infestation, but if you’re in the process of planning to plant new trees in your yard, planting resistant species or varieties of trees can help prevent future infestations. If you want to plant a large tree, consider a Sycamore or a conifer such as a Redwood or Cedar — all fairly resistant to mistletoe.

Regular monitoring and early intervention are crucial in managing mistletoe infestations. If the infestation is severe or if the tree is large and difficult to manage, it’s probably time to give us a call — as professional arborists we’ll get the job done right.