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Mistletoe, the killer

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Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2011 12:00 am

What are those big green clumps so evident when the trees are bare? The answer is the deadly parasite mistletoe, which is killing Lodi’s trees. Mistletoe is spread by birds in two ways. First by rubbing the sticky white berries off their beaks onto the tree bark, and then by passing the ingested living seeds, which land on branches below or on a neighboring tree so that one tree can infect a large area.

Being a parasite, mistletoe lives off the tree’s vital nutrients under the bark and the size and number of clumps will double each year until the tree is dead. The only solution is to have the tree pruned by a knowledgeable professional. It does no good to cut the mistletoe off at the point of attachment, as the roots are running along under the bark, ready to sprout again in less than two years. Ideally, the mistletoe should be cut back 18 inches towards the trunk of the tree, which is not always possible. The alternative is to remove the tree and plant a less susceptible variety.

It is unfortunate that solving the problem has not been a priority in many California cities and the present economy, with limited budgets and staffing, has allowed mistletoe to become rampant. In this regard, I do want to thank those concerned Lodi homeowners who have had their trees tended to this year. Solving the problem has long been a priority of mine, and thanks to the educational efforts of Tree Lodi, progress has been made — at least in awareness.

In the meantime, let us not give up hope that someday a communitywide eradication program will be possible. Please attend Lodi’s Arbor Day Celebration on Saturday, April 2 at Katzakian Park on West Turner Road from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to learn lots more about trees. You could also win a free one!

Joyce Harmon

Tree Lodi

Lodi

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