Native Mistletoe

It’s still a bit early for a Christmas blog. Nevertheless I’ll write about it because I made an interesting observation the other day. It a case of mistletoe on a Douglas fir tree nearby. OK, interesting to me.

The mistletoe that most people are familiar with is the European one associated with Christmas. It has leaves and white berries and grows in clumps on many different broad-leafed shrubs and trees.

Although both are parasitic, the mistletoe plant on Vancouver island is very different. It is tiny, hardly visible at all. The biggest they get is 8 cm or 3 inches high.

If you want to find any, you need to go fir a hike somewhere there are young Western Hemlock trees growing, and start looking at the ends of the branches. It parasitizes Western Hemlock mostly. So they named it Western Hemlock Dwarf-mistletoe. Anyway, look for infections in larger hemlocks nearby. You can tell because the larger trees have deformed branches called brooms caused by the mistletoe infection. When the seeds are ready, they pop out going some distance. The seeds are sticky, so the lucky ones stick to foliage below them. Wind doesn’t affect them much, so the spread of infected trees is around 20 m.

According to everything I was taught, only one species of mistletoe appears on Vancouver Island, Arceuthobium tsugense. Although it infects Western Helmlock mostly, it is known to infect lodgepole pine on Vancouver Island. and very rarely, Douglas Fir. So when I saw a very large broom high in an old Douglas Fire in a City Park in Port Alberni, it piqued my interest.

I sent an email to a forest pathologist at the Pacific Forestry Centre as well as the photo above. He is keen to get a sample of the plant. That means climbing the tree in the photo above. Anyone have the skills and equipment to do that?