A blog by Jess

Photo: White Mistletoe (Credit: Jess)

It isn’t just for hanging up in the rafters as an excuse to smooch. NZ has 8 native mistletoe species, with the majority of them being endemic. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that relies on a host plant to survive. Mistletoe is very slow growing so are extremely susceptible to being browsed and are apparently very tasty. For this reason, many of them are in decline. To the brushtail possum, these native plants are like ice cream! Here on Banks Peninsula, there are several species including white mistletoe (Tupeia antarctica) and green mistletoe (Ileostylus micranthus). The local mistletoe are very reliant on birds for pollination and dispersal. They produce berries which native birds such as the bellbird and tūī thrive on. Without birds, these plants can’t reproduce and spread. White mistletoe in particular is at risk nationally and the reasons for its decline can be put down to several factors including habitat loss. However, two important driving factors behind it are possum browsing, and the decline of native birds due to predation.

Photo: Green mistletoe (Credit: Alice W)

Working in pest control here at PFBP, we are looking to do something about that.

A lot of smart people are interested in Mistletoe. Jess Helps, one of our adventurous PFBP rangers, has spent some time and learned about this interesting plant from our project partners, who are currently conducting mistletoe surveys across Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū/Banks Peninsula. The surveys give them information on possum browse in certain areas. It can be disheartening to do these and find no mistletoe, but the opposite is true when you see areas that are beginning to take off, especially in relation to good possum control. Mistletoe surveys in the future will be an important tool for us at PFBP to show whether our mahi is getting the job done. Especially as we move to eliminate this pest from our environment.

Photo: Green mistletoe (Credit: Jess)

Mistletoe provide nectar and berries for our native species so if these plants thrive, the birds also thrive, and if birds thrive so does the mistletoe! It's a special cyclic relationship that has been disrupted by both human activity and introduced furry critters. It is without a doubt that these are special and unique little plants. So be mindful of mistletoe, it has an important place in the larger picture.

Photo: White mistletoe (Credit: Alice W)