[Hemi-]Parasite at Work
On Valentine’s Day, I pointed out that a romantic symbol, mistletoe, was actually a parasite. Although mistletoe does make some of its own energy through photosynthesis, its roots also bore deep into the bark of the host tree and snags nutrients away. It’s been called the “Vampire Plant” and the etymology of scientific name is particularly fitting. The genus, Phoradendron, derives from Greek and means “Thief of Trees”.
I knew about mistletoe’s deviant habits back on Valentine’s Day, but at the time I hadn’t seen the theft first hand. All the mistletoe I had run into had the anonymity of height on its side. It was perched so high up in the tree branches, I couldn’t see what it is up to. That changed in March. Ryan Somma and I took the dogs hiking on the Lassiter Trail at Merchant’s Millpond State Park. Near the end of our journey, we passed by a patch of mistletoe that didn’t have the altitude aspirations of its kin. This one was close enough to see.
Me Shooting Mistletoe (Photograph by Ryan Somma)
And all the details were on display. The smoking gun. You could see how the plant dug down into the tree and cracked and damaged the bark.
It wasn’t long after my first post, I got to see mistletoe in action.
A parasite at work.