Mistletoe Seeds Sprouting!

Sprouted Mistletoe seed growing into Mesquite

I was looking at my Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens) today and noticed some desert mistletoe(Phoradendron californicum) seeds sitting on some of the horizontal branches and in forks. I immediately started rubbing them off, when I noticed some little red “roots” (called radicles) sticking out one end! I wished I had not removed them all, because I thought it would make an interesting picture. Well, there were a couple more seeds down on the main trunk and I got a shot of one of them!

Look at how that radicle is going right for the crack in the bark instead of downward like a normal root! I rubbed this one off too – I hope I got it off in time.

The seeds are tiny, about 1/8″ long and 1/16″ wide, usually with a little red residue from the fruit on them. They are fairly distinctive and easy to see once you have the correct “search image”. I would advise checking your native desert trees (Palo Verde, Acacia greggii [Catclaw] and Mesquite) for seeds and getting them off as soon as possible. They are sprouting RIGHT NOW!

Mistletoe seeds on a Palo Verde branch.

The seeds or Desert Mistletoe are spread by birds in their droppings, and when they wipe the sticky seeds off their bills. The Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens) is the primary one that spreads the seeds. I do not believe the seeds on my Screwbean Mesquite were deposited by Phainopeplas as we have not seen them in our yard or immediate area very often. The tree is frequented by many other birds, as it is near a feeder, so there a lot of likely suspects.