Members of local Landcare groups, landowners and farmers attended a recent mistletoe field day at Limestone.
The event was hosted by the Upper Goulburn Landcare Network (UGLN) and featured a presentation and landscape inspection by mistletoe expert Ray Thomas.
Ray’s focus is on understanding the natural processes involved with mistletoe including managing them as part of the landscape and saving valuable trees from the effects of what is a natural parasite.
Mistletoe lives by attaching its roots under the bark of a tree and extracting nutrients from the host tree rather than from the ground.
Once the infestation has taken over a large proportion of the tree crown it often out-competes it host tree for nutrients and water and sometimes causing the tree itself to die.
Mistletoe plays a valuable role in the ecosystem providing nectar from their flowers and delicious fruits that many birds feed on. They also provide dense foliage that birds also love to nest in.
Sticky mistletoe seeds are spread by Mistletoe Birds that eat the fruit and then excrete them onto branches where they germinate and take root under the bark.
The larvae of certain butterfly species also use mistletoe as their sole food supply and even possums prefer their leaves to eucalyptus leaves.
Where trees have a severe case of mistletoe infestation manual removal will almost certainly be necessary. Land owners and managers will need a short and a long term strategy.
Pruning mistletoe by pole saw, tree climber or cherry picker will allow the host tree to feed itself and then recovery. The re-growth on the affected tree is often phenomenal (see before & after photos below).
Ray Thomas advised that re-infestation often occurs if the root causes of stress, isolation and lack of understorey are not addressed.
He advised the best process is to fence off the patch of trees to exclude stock and encourage natural revegetation, to replant the missing indigenous shrubs that attract the butterflies and birds.
If the trees are too young to have natural hollows then nest boxes could be placed to provide a home for possums as well.
Anyone wanting more information on revegetation or nest boxes can contact Chris Cobern at the UGLN on 0413 855 490 or firstname.lastname@example.org