August 31, 2014

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Mistletoe: tree thief, holiday tradition

Lindie Huffman, Agriculture and Natural Resources

Once autumn leaves have fallen, mistletoe becomes highly visible on large trees throughout Kentucky.  Phoradendron, the scientific name for this parasitic plant, means tree thief.  You can commonly find these small leafy plants on twigs and branches of many hardwood species in the southern two-thirds of the United States.  Mistletoes extract water, mineral elements and food from their host tree by way of a parasite nutrient-uptake organ; hence the name, tree thief.