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Leafy Mistletoe

December 20, 2012 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

Leafy Mistletoe
Phoradendron villosum

Now that the California black oaks in Yosemite Valley have dropped most of their leaves, something strange has been revealed among the branches. Even though it is winter, big green leafy clumps of mistletoe are still growing up there. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that survives by tapping into the water and nutrient supply in a living host plant. This mistletoe can produce some of its own food through photosynthesis, but gets all of its water from the oak host.  Infestation of mistletoe doesn't usually kill the host, but it does weaken it and make it more vulnerable to other pests. Of course, this time of year you can't help but think of the seasonal tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. Watch out the next time you walk around Yosemite Village, you might be surprised how often you are standing under the mistletoe.

Leafy Mistletoe in the crown of a bare California oak tree.
Leafy Mistletoe in the crown of a California black oak.

Nature Scene, Yosemite Valley, BW

4 Comments Comments Icon

  1. Yosemite National Park - Yosemite, CA
    December 27, 2012 at 05:43

    Alexis - We have eleven (11) other species of mistletoe that specialize in gleaning nutrients from tree species in addition to the California black oak. Mistletoe may also be seen in various pine trees, incense cedars, junipers, and firs.

  2. Brad - Atascadero , Ca
    December 23, 2012 at 01:28


  3. Alexis
    December 23, 2012 at 11:57

    Does Mistletoe only live in Black Oaks in the park or have you seen it in any other trees?

  4. janet - south bend, in
    December 23, 2012 at 10:14

    interesting- thanks!


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Did You Know?

View of Yosemite Valley from the Wawona Tunnel Vista.

Rockfall events have helped shape many of the outstanding features along Yosemite Valley's walls, including Royal Arches, North Dome, and Half Dome. Giant talus slopes that slant away from the Valley walls accumulate debris with each rockfall event.