Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): G. Glatzel; B. W. Geils
    Date: 2009
    Source: Botany. 87: 10-15.
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
    PDF: Download Publication  (234.7 KB)


    Mistletoes are highly specialized perennial flowering plants adapted to parasitic life on aerial parts of their hosts. In our discussion on the physiological interactions between parasite and host, we focus on water relations, mineral nutrition, and the effect of host vigour. When host photosynthesis is greatest, the xylem water potential of the host is most negative. To maintain a flux gradient and avoid stomatal closure and wilting, the mistletoe must tolerate a more negative water potential than the host. Succulent leaves enhance water storage and allow mistletoes to rehydrate before their hosts rehydrate. Mistletoe infections may disrupt the host stomatal control system, causing early and oscillating closure of host stomata, thereby diminishing host photosynthetic gain. Mistletoes lack the active uptake of minerals of a typical plant root system and rely upon the haustorium to connect with the host for the essentially one-way flow of photosynthates and nutrients from host to parasite. Modest growth rates, tolerance, succulence, and rapid leaf turnover are some means by which mistletoes avoid mineral deficiency or excess. We propose high concentrations of some mobile elements in the mistletoe by comparison with the host result not from active uptake, but from the inevitable accumulation by a parasite that utilizes host phloem sap. The relationship between host condition and mistletoe performance varies by situation and over time. In some cases, the host can outgrow the mistletoe, but favorable host status can also accelerate mistletoe growth. A better understanding of the mistletoe-host interaction can be utilized in improved management of infested forest plantations for resource production as well as for conservation of biodiversity and endangered species.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Glatzel, G.; Geils, B. W. 2009. Mistletoe ecophysiology: Host-parasite interactions. Botany. 87: 10-15.


    water relations, mineral nutrition, host-parasite interaction

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page