Oro Valley Parasitic Mistletoe Revisited

mistletoe on ironwoodIt is a rare occasion when I post about the same subject twice in such a short period of time. When I wrote the first piece of mistletoe it was because I had just found out about a home owners association in Tucson requiring it to be removed from a property we have listed.

Mistletoe like boiling the frog

I’ve seen these apparent bird nests in trees for some time. Now I see them everywhere. It is one of those things you drive by over and over again and don’t even notice. Mistletoe as a parasite is deceptively slow in how it works and spreads. The berries are sticky and the birds eat those berries then fly to another tree and scrape their beaks on the branch to remove the sticky residue. In the process they deposit seeds onto the branch of a new tree (host).

In the past week my eyes have been opened to the growing number of dead trees that line paved and dirt roads in Oro Valley. Almost all of them have evidence of mistletoe. Before I saw it, but didn’t realize what it was or what it was doing to our trees. The clincher for me after counting dozens of trees with mistletoe was when I started seeing the Ironwood in bloom and mistletoe hanging from their branches.

I’ve seen Palo Verde, Mesquite, and Ironwood infected with Mistletoe. As the leaves fill out they will be less obvious but the destructive nature of this plant is still at work even when less visible.

I know many are concerned with Buffelgrass and the potential for long term damage to the desert especially in case of wildfire. It is a threat and possible threat to the Sonoran Desert.

Mistletoe is not just a threat, it is killing native trees. It is killing our Ironwoods and Palo Verde especially. A drive down Lambert past La Cholla to Thornydale will provide anyone looking plenty of evidence of what mistletoe is doing to these trees. In Marana drive down Linda Vista between Thornydale and Hartman you will see plenty of mistletoe and sick trees.

It is getting worse.

mistletoe deathMistletoe needs to be removed from trees, at least cut back so it can’t produce berries and spread to other trees.

I did a search on mistletoe in Tucson, Oro Valley and Marana. The only information I found on mistletoe and the devastation it is causing was on a local blog “By George a Blog” George wrote about mistletoe on Feb. 15, 2008, “Mistletoe is Certainly a Pest

Ironwood are a limited resource around here and Oro Valley is privilege to be home to many of them found in the Tucson area. We can’t just continue to turn a blind eye to the effect of this parasite on our trees. If you own property or know someone that does and you see mistletoe in their trees please inform them of the effects of leaving this parasite continue to kill their trees.

If anyone from the city of Oro Valley or Marana for that matter read this post bring this information to a person who can help preserve our trees.

Mistletoe is more than a pest and a nuisance it is slowly changing the desert landscape by killing some of our most precious resources, our trees; not just any trees either, it is killing our Ironwoods.


  1. Is is a very sad thing to see these trees having the life sucked out of them. I have noticed over the last few years how whole neighborhoods have trees that are infected with this cancer like growth. I recently visited a home where a dead tree that was infested on the side yard. Inside the home was a very fine black dust that I am sure came from the tree. The person whose home I was visiting was not well either. I wonder if there is any link to the debree, dust, soot, whatever it is being in the home too.

  2. Kari,

    I don’t know if there is a link to the dust, but I do know if something isn’t done soon there will be a very widespread infection rate of trees through out Oro Valley and Marana.