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Mistletoe Madness from Hurricane Ian

mistletoe parasite

Pasco county, in the northern part of the greater Tampa metro area, was spared the brunt of the near cat 5 hurricane Ian. We were projected to be ground zero, after Cedar Key, but the trajectory kept moving further south until it reached the island just north of Captiva and Sanibel, named Cayo Costa, more than 2.5-hours south of here.

We are so grateful to have had only minor tropical storm force winds. When we awoke, Maui and I explored the property for damage… which was really nothing much save a few downed trees and dead branches.

The temperature had dropped into the 60s, that’s 30 degrees lower than it had been! The pup was running around like a mad dog enjoying the cooler temps. I saw him pick up what at first glance looked like a downed branch. Upon closer inspection, I recognized the plant as mistletoe that had broken off a tree. I yelled at him to drop it, as it is highly toxic.

Then, it dawned on me that one of the other downed branches also had mistletoe attached to it.

I had only seen real mistletoe in the garden once before, affixed to my pear tree. I didn’t know what it was, but my stepfather reached up, broke it off, and identified it to me. I knew that it is a true parasite, depriving the host plant of nutrients. While it is capable of photosynthesis for some nutrients, it definitely weakens and stunts the growth of the tree it has attached to. It reseeds readily on its own and is helped by birds that feast on the berries.

Control of this pest is to pluck it from the tree. The problem is that some of my trees are 30-40 feet tall!

So, I picked up the 3.5-foot branch and tossed it in the dumpster. There is no way I wanted birds to eat the berries to help them propagate some more in my trees!

Then I looked up at the trees swaying frantically in leftover gusts from the hurricane and saw additional globes of more mistletoe. I guess I thought they were squirrel nests… but nope, I clearly see what they are… mistletoe.

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