Mistletoe plants grow on a wide range of host trees, and commonly reduce their growth but can kill them with heavy infestation. They can parasitise more than 200 tree and shrub species. Almost all mistletoes are hemi-parasites, bearing evergreen leaves that do some photosynthesis, and using the host mainly for water and mineral nutrients. However, the mistletoe first sprouts from bird faeces on the trunk of the tree and indeed in its early stages of life takes it nutrients from this source. Most mistletoe seeds are spread by birds, such as the Mistle Thrush. Mistletoe was often considered a pest that kills trees and devalues natural habitats, but was recently recognized as an ecological keystone species, an organism that has a disproportionately pervasive influence over its community. A broad array of animals depend on mistletoe for food, consuming the leaves and young shoots, transferring pollen between plants, and dispersing the sticky seeds.
Text and photographs courtesy of Wikipedia.