Usually Mistletoe is associated with the Christmas season in the northern hemisphere.
Many people don’t realise that we have over 90 species of Mistletoe in Australia, and the largest and most spectacular is the Western Australian Christmas tree Nuytsia floribunda.
Long revered by Aboriginal people as the spirit tree, Nuytsia is the only Mistletoe that grows in the ground. All others grow attached to branches. The “trunk” of Nuytsia is not wood, but a starchy material which is easily broken under the weight of the foliage and blossom.
Mistletoe plays an important role in the ecology of woodlands. They provide rich nectar and succulent berries for birds as well as secure leafy nest sites. Studies have shown if you remove Mistletoe from woodlands the number of bird species is halved. Mistletoes don’t kill their host and they are not poisonous to humans or stock.
The Mistletoe bird spreads the seeds in their droppings. Too frequent fire regime does not allow Mistletoe to establish in the woodlands.
In the Katanning area, broad leaved Mistletoe is commonly found on Eucalypt trees and narrow leaved Mistletoe parasitises on wattle species.
Over summer look for the Magic of Mistletoe blossom in the bush near you.
Author: Bev Lockley
Bev is an Australian native plants specialist, with a particular focus on the unique flora of the arid region of the Great Southern and Wheatbelt. Bev is a community activist, amazing teacher, and the initiator and driving force behind the Friends of Piesse Lake and the Katanning Propagators Group.