Oak or Hairy Mistletoe
Growing high up in deciduous trees, mostly oaks. It’s easy to see as the trees are bare. It grows in balls! Like decorations for the tree! At the rest stop along Hwy. 5 going south through Oregon into California, I try to get a good look, but they are all unreachable. The branches must be brittle though, as I find some stems on the ground. It is a funny color of green, kind of yellowish and matte. It is in bud.
There are three main kinds of mistletoes. Dwarf mistletoes are tiny, usually infest pine trees, can be quite damaging. American and European mistletoes are the kind you see hanging in a doorway at Christmas. Phoradendron villosum is native to the United states and while it is important part of it’s ecosystem, it can do damage to orchards, landscapes and tree lots. Mistletoes are hemiparasites, that means they do photosynthesize and make their own food, but they also gain nutrients from their host. Male and female flowers are on separate plants. The foliage and berries are eaten by birds and small animals, but are toxic to humans. The plants spread via bird â€” they are eaten and the birds drop the sticky seeds around their perches where they get stuck to branches and sprout. Then they send out a little haustoria to tap into their host. Supposedly people used to think that a bird landing on a branch caused the plants to grow there. Ah, those blissful days before spontaneous generation was disproven.
There are tons of myths about mistletoe: Why people kiss under it, how it got its name, evil spirits, ghost brides, Celts, Druids, sacrificial white bulls, Frigga and Balder and the poison arrow, etc.