Mistletoe Down Under

You may recall what I wrote about mistletoe. Today, my fellow blogger manuelinor at Ecology is Not a Dirty Word tells us about Mistletoe Magic from an Australian perspective.

I like what manuelinor says about mistletoe as a keystone species, linking to science about it. In that paper, David Watson and Matthew Herring conclude that keystone status is likely in ‘other parasitic plants with high turnover of enriched leaves… most apparent in low productivity systems.’

I wonder how Watson and Herring’s conclusion might apply to the distribution of our own white-berried mistletoe (Viscum album) in the British Isles. On the site I’ve just linked to, Jonathan Briggs says that V. album is abundant in the South West Midlands of England but rarer in North and East England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. I grew up in the West Midlands, on which Tolkein is said to have modelled his lush Hobbitland – the land doesn’t seem at all ‘low productivity’ there.

[Edit] Jonathan Briggs is another of my fellow bloggers here. He writes Jonathan’s Mistletoe Diary. Today he gives interesting responses to the Watson and Herring paper, and to reviews of it, by asking ‘Is mistletoe good, bad, or somewhere in between?’

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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5 Responses to Mistletoe Down Under

  1. Pingback: Mistletoe, myth and reality | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. narf77 says:

    I take it that mistletoe is hemi-parasitic (like Western Australian Christmas trees (Nuytsia floribunda)) and our local dodder is completely parasitic. Dodder is a curse! It does have fruit that the birds utilise but the resulting tangle of rope-like greenery kills its host and spreads through the native bushland like wildfire.

    • argylesock says:

      Yes, our V. album is hemi-parasitic. Sfaik it doesn’t harm its host tree but my fellow blogger Jonathan Briggs could answer more fully, if he chose to. In fact his blog Jonathan’s Mistletoe Diary probably does so already.

    • argylesock says:

      Your dodders sound terrible. Are they native species? I ask because perhaps they’ll have natural enemies.

      • narf77 says:

        Dodder is a native and a most industrious one too! It probably does have natural enemies but I am it’s mortal enemy as I tug it out of trees whenever I see it. It is insidious and spreads through the canopy strangling trees as it goes…not fun to have on your property!

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