To: Gary Blond <>
Subject: Mistletoebird
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 2004 09:51:23 +1000


       Re your Q. 2:

2. Is it true they are only attracted to the Mistletoe tree/shrub (?)        

Mr. J. L. McKean wrote the Mistletoe-bird entry in "Birds of the High Country" edited by H.J. Frith, (Reed, 1969).  He said:

"Their main food is the fruit of the mistletoes and they are an important agent in their distribution. ...

"In addition to mistletoe berries, they eat berries of a few other plants, including saltbush, box-thorn, privet, hawthorne and pepper trees.  Insects are also eaten and in fact, form the main food given to the nestlings during their first few days of life."

Re your Q. 3:

3. Are Mistletoe trees/shrubs(?) available in nurseries?

As mistletoes live solely as parasites on other plants, it seems unlikely that nurseries would go to the trouble of establishing a host tree in a container and then growing a mistletoe on it.  But you never know: it would be a novelty.

About 70 years ago, as a curious child I established a couple of mistletoe plants on orange trees in our citrus orchard.  (Didn't tell Dad, though!)

It was simply a matter of taking a ripe mistletoe berry and squeezing out the seed.  It came with a sticky coating that drew out into a long 'tail' which I wiped onto a branch.  Nature did the rest.

You could carry this little piece of research to its logical conclusion by trying several species of mistletoe on several species of potential hosts, with sufficient replications for the statistical analysis without which today's scientific community seems unable to draw a publishable conclusion.

A couple of other bits of info about mistletoes:

1.  In a street here in Hawthorne (Brisbane, Qld.) a number of attractive Lagerstroemia street trees were heavily infested with mistletoe - to the extent that were in danger of being killed.  The Council's experts were able to kill the mistletoe, in situ, without harming the Lagerstroemias.   I don't know what they used to do it.

2.  This is relevant if you do try to grow your own.  Some mistletoes are host specific.  Here I quote some examples from the Queensland Herbarium's "Flora of Southeastern Queensland" by Stanley & Ross:

Amyema cambagei         almost exclusively on several Casuarina spp.
A. maidenii                     usually on Acacia harpophylla (Brigalow)
A. gaudichaudii              almost exclusively on Melaleuca decora  

There are however, a number of species that are not so particular.  Amyema bifurcatum is widespread in SEQ on Eucalyptus species; A. miquellii on Eucs and Acacias.  Benthamina alyxifolia is usually parasitic on rainforest trees.  And so on.

And if you would like a conversation piece for your garden, how about this:  The Flora points out that Notothixos subaureus, common throughout  southeastern Queensland, is "usually parasitic on Loranthaceous mistletoes, especially Muellerina spp., Amyena cogener, and Dendropthoe vitellina".  

But the mistletoe Viscum articulatum, is also common throughout the region and is "almost exclusively parasitic on Loranthaceous mistletoes and Notothixos spp.".

So you not only have the possibility of having a mistletoe growing on a mistletoe growing on a tree, but you could have the mistletoe Viscum articulatum growing on the mistletoe Notothixos subaureus growing on the mistletoe Amyena cogener growing on a Casuarina.

It seems unlikely that Mistletoe-birds would appreciate such a botanical curiosity, but they might still eat the fruits.


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