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By Sandra Farley
There’s a tree killer lurking in Corrales and right now, without leaves to camouflage it, it is easy to see. Mistletoe, the romantic plant that we buy at Christmas to steal kisses, is an insidious parasite that attaches itself to trees, plants and shrubs, stealing their nutrients and water. This can weaken or disfigure the host plant, and eventually even kill it.

Mistletoe is also invasive, spreading throughout the tree and, with the help of birds, can spread quickly throughout the neighborhood. Although mistletoe is found all over the world, several species thrive in the Southwest infecting cottonwoods, mesquite, pine, juniper and other types of desert trees.

Once it infects a tree, mistletoe is difficult to remove. When its seeds sprout, they grow through the bark of trees and into their tissues, extending up and down within the branches. Even if you cut off the visible portion of the invader, new plants often grow from inside the host.

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The most effective way to fight it is to remove an infected branch or limb entirely. In order to prevent harm to the tree, you may want to use the services of a certified arborist. They know best how to remove large pieces of wood without adversely affecting the tree’s health. If you do the pruning yourself, remove infested material back to the branch collar.

So, before the mistletoe disappears behind those sprouting leaves, inspect your trees to ensure their health and kiss that mistletoe goodbye! Read more at: True Mistletoe: https://aces.nmsu.edu/ces/plantclinic/documents/mistletoes-_od-10__final.pdf

Sandra Farley is a Sandoval County Master Gardener.

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