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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

American or True Mistletoes  (Phoradendron spp.)

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Life stages of Mistletoes mistletoes growing on a deciduous tree leaves and fruit close-up of mistletoe mistletoe in branch mistletoe causing limb swelling

American mistletoes are shrubby-stemmed, evergreen perennial broadleaf plants that grow as parasites on woody plants, extracting moisture and nutrients from their host. Plants often develop a roundish form up to 2 feet (60 cm) or more in diameter. All American mistletoe species are native to California. They are found throughout California, except for the North Coast, to roughly 8500 feet (2600 m). Mistletoes are unique in appearance and it is unlikely that they would be confused with other plant species.


The cotyledons (seed leaves) are fused.

Mature plant

Leaves are thick, nearly oval, green, yellowish-green, gray-green, and sometimes reddish. Leaves are opposite to one another along the stem.


Flowers bloom from April through December, but are inconspicuous.


Berries are shiny and gelatinous and usually contain one seed surrounded by adhesive tissue.


Mistletoe seeds are dispersed via bird droppings, birds' feet and beaks, or by equipment used to trim trees. Only seeds deposited at an ideal point of entry will survive, because following germination, a growing rootlike structure must come in contact with a tree's bud, leaf base, or twig in order to penetrate for nutrients and water.


Reproduces by seed.

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