Birds Bring Mistletoe to Tree Tops | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 13:34

By Buzz Bertolero

The Dirt Gardener

Q: For the past several years, I’ve noticed several green patches of what I’ve been told is Mistletoe. They’re growing on the branches near the top of several backyard shade trees. The clusters are very apparent when the leaves drop off. I’ve also been told that Mistletoe is harmful. If this is so, how do I get rid of it?

A: Yes, Mistletoe is harmful to trees; however, the decline occurs slowly.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that lives off other plants or host to survive. For many years, Mistletoe was limited to the foothills around the Central Valley; but today it is commonly found throughout the Bay Area growing in the canopy of mature, shade trees.

Birds are the primary means of spreading Mistletoe as they feed on the clusters. The white Mistletoe berries contain many sticky seeds. The birds carry the seeds from tree to tree on their feet, beaks and in their droppings, as the seeds are not digestible. It’s found growing high in the canopy where the birds nest or perch out of the reach of predators.

There are two methods of controlling this problem. They’re both a bit problematical because Mistletoe is hard to get to because of its height off the ground.

The obvious solution is to prune it out of the trees. Unfortunately, you’ll need to remove a portion of the branch where it’s growing; otherwise, it grows back as the roots are still attached. This more than likely will require an arborist with the right equipment to reach it.

Mistletoe may reestablish itself, depending on the bird activity.

The second method is to spray the clusters with Florel Fruit Eliminator. Florel is the only product registered for controlling Mistletoe. Florel is a plant growth regulator so it has no insecticidal, fungicidal or herbicidal properties. It’s best applied when the temperatures are above 60°F, November and/or February through April. It’s applied at the rate of 1 quart Florel to four gallons of water.

The entire tree doesn’t need to be sprayed, just saturate the Mistletoe clusters. In five to seven days, the Mistletoe should begin to shed its leaves and branches. A second application is only necessary if Mistletoe is still present after three weeks.

After spraying the tree, wash or hose off any of the spray residue on any plants that are under the trees. You’ll need a sprayer that will reach the growth. The Mistletoe will grow back eventually, so repeat applications are recommended every three to four years.

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is and you can send questions by email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or to 360 Civic Drive, Ste. “D,” Pleasant Hill, CA 94523, and on Facebook at



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