Sunday, February 05, 2006

Mistletoe and Phainopepla

Today was another day of discovery for me. We went walking in Sabino Canyon (Coronado National Forest) and I took some photos of desert mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) growing on palo verde trees to compare with the mistletoe growing on our neighboring mesquite trees. Desert or mesquite mistletoe is parasitic and grows most frequently on leguminous trees such as mesquite, palo verde, ironwood and acacia. Mistletoe depends on its host for water and mineral nutrients. However, because mistletoe obtains at least part of its sugars and other nutrients from photosynthesis, it is considered a hemiparasite (as opposed to a holoparasite, which depends on its host for all nourishment).

I also took some photos of some distant phainopepla (silky flycatcher). When I looked up phainopepla on the Internet, I discovered that they rely on the desert mistletoe berries as their main source of winter food, which accounts for their prevalence on our walk and also in our neighborhood.

(Once again, fuzzy shots with a 55 mm lens. Click for enlargements.)

Mistletoe on mesquite (Indian Ridge, Tucson)

Mistletoe on palo verde (Sabino Canyon near Tucson)

Red berries on the female mistletoe

Phainopepla (Sabino Canyon near Tucson)

On top of a mesquite tree

On top of a palo verde infested with red-berried (female) mistletoe

Male Phainopepla

Female phainopepla


T. Beth said...

I just love the whistled calls of Phainopeplas. I usually hear them before I see them.

Pam in Tucson said...

I love their calls, too. And then to see the black and white wings almost whirling as they fly past.

Shannon said...

Hi I was looking for some information about mistletoe on mesquite trees. I have a few in my yard and they all have mistletoe. Does this need to be removed? I heard a rumor that the whole branch must be removed. I have just started to prune and they are great trees but i can't find very much info about the effects of the mistletoe on the mesquite so maybe you could help me.

Pam in Tucson said...

Hi Shannon, I don't know much about the subject. George Brookbank was an Extension Agent for the University of Arizona Agricultural Extension Service and is a world-renowned expert on desert plants. I found this article on his blog: Mistletoe is Certainly a Pest. As you can see, it was written last February. I hope it will be helpful. Good luck and thanks for visiting my blog! -- Pam

shannon said...

Hey, thank you that was very helpful!
I did go ahead and cut off the mistletoe so it should really help my trees!