Desert mistletoe, Phoradendron californicum, Joshua Tree National Park, California
Desert mistletoe is a parasitic shrub found in the deserts of California and other parts of the western United States. It is also called California legume mistletoe, or leguminous mistletoe, because it grows abundantly on legume trees in the desert. Desert mistletoe infestation reduces the growth of trees, reduces seed yield, causes twisting of branches, and increases the chance of secondary infection and infestation. Because desert mistletoe plants do not communicate with each other to determine the “strategy” of permanent host infestation, what eventually happened was that the favorite trees of local birds were so severely infested by a variety of desert mistletoe plants that they died a few years later . Desert mistletoe produces tiny, unremarkable yellow flowers. Female plants will produce the red berries you see in this video. These berries are very popular with fruit-eating birds, especially Phainopeplas (Phainopepla nitens). Birds are responsible for spreading seeds in their feces. The leaves of the desert mistletoe are small and scaly, and have been reduced during evolution due to reduced demand. These aerial semiparasitic plants grow on the branches of woody shrubs and trees. The main host plants are Acacia, Onya, Parkinson and Lilium, which are desert trees and shrubs in the Pea family (Leguminosae). .