The value of Mistletoe

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Subject: The value of Mistletoe
From: "Jenny Stiles" <>
Date: Wed, 14 Aug 2013 16:30:09 +1000
Hi List,
I came across a very interesting article about the value of mistletoe in the 
Australian bush in New Scientist 22/29 December 2012 pages 70-71. The study was 
investigating whether or not mistletoe’s reputation as a destructive pest was 
deserved and was carried out by David Watson, an Ecologist at Charles Sturt 
University in Albury, NSW. Their findings were that mistletoe was immensely 
beneficial to the entire forest. Mistletoe, as it is always able to get water 
from its host [unless that dies], is a reliable source of food and shelter for 
birds and insects, as well as providing cover and shelter for small birds and 
mammals. The study also found that only minimal harm was done to the host tree. 

To study the benefits [or otherwise of mistletoe] it was removed from entire 
woodlands after surveys were performed [5500 clumps of mainly Box Mistletoe 
from 17 large patches of woodland in south-east New South Wales. After three 
years they surveyed these woodlands again to see the effect of mistletoe 
removal. More than a third of woodland birds had vanished from these areas & 
not just the obvious mistletoe users. The biggest declines were in the ground 
feeding insectivores; the rich leaf litter formed under the mistletoe is richer 
and deeper than elsewhere [because mistletoe does not withdraw nutrients from 
its leaves before dropping them] and contains more soil microbes and 
invertebrates than non-mistletoe leaf litter. They also found that the variety 
provided by the Mistletoe itself, its leaf litter and thinner leaf litter under 
non-mistletoe bearing trees provided the greatest variety of habitats and 
therefore more species co-existed in these areas than forests without mistletoe.

So according to this study, mistletoe should be seen as a saviour rather than a 

I was unaware of the beneficial results of mistletoe and thought others might 
find the results of this study interesting.

From Jenny Stiles

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