Magazine article American Forests

From Bad to Benefactor

Magazine article American Forests

From Bad to Benefactor

Article excerpt

For many years forest rangers waged a war against dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium sp.), a parasitic plant that attacks the towering evergreens of the American West. (Dwarf mistletoe is different from the leafy kind that lovers hang out under at Christmas.) Rangers routinely cut down or burned infected trees, so the pesky plant wouldn't spread. But recently, scientists have discovered that dozens of forest creatures depend on mistletoe for food and shelter. So now forestry policies are changing.

Most plants make their own food, but dwarf mistletoe is a thief. It jams root-like sinkers into delicate tree tissue and steals food and water from its helpless host. The wounded tree responds by sprouting a compact bundle of slender twigs. After a few years of growth, the tangled mass, called a "witches' broom," resembles the business end of an old-fashioned broom.

There are about 40 species of dwarf mistletoe in the genus Arceuthobium, and each species attacks a specific species of tree. Eventually, dwarf mistletoe plants steal enough water, minerals, and nutrients to kill the ponderosa and lodgepole pines, Douglas-firs, western larches, and western hemlocks they attack. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.