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City kisses mistletoe goodbye to preserve urban forest

Courtesy of Joseph Carello

City staff prune mistletoe clusters from trees on Mainberry Drive.


When not helping to make the season bright, mistletoe spends its days wreaking havoc on the well-being of a tree near you.

The City of Madera Parks Department recently wrapped up a new pilot program that aims to remove parasitic mistletoe infestations from trees in the public right-of-way, often referred to as street trees, throughout the City. According to Parks and Community Services Director, John Scarborough, the sorely needed service will help to improve the health of the City’s tree inventory for many years to come.

“Mistletoe is a parasite that siphons away key nutrients that are essential to host plants’ vitality and longevity,” Scarborough said. “With California’s water situation, these trees are already being pushed to their limits. The added stress from an infestation of mistletoe could be enough to spell the end for some of these trees.”

By the time a cluster of mistletoe has grown to around 18 inches in diameter, it begins to flower and fruit, producing sticky white berries that make an appetizing treat for hungry birds, who then spread it from tree to tree. Scarborough says the best method of prevention is working to minimize the amount of mature mistletoe.

City crews began pruning the mistletoe in winter due to the ease of identifying problem areas after trees had dropped their leaves for the season, ultimately ridding nearly 100 trees of their mistletoe ailments during the 30-day pilot period. Scarborough noted that due to the success of the pilot program, the City will look to provide the service annually, usually commencing after New Year’s Day.

“We are fortunate to have such beautiful trees in our community. We’re committed to doing everything we can to maintain them for our current and future residents.”

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