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A parasite in your monsoon garden!

March 4, 2011

The genus Dendrophthoe (Loranthaceae) contains parasitic plants which may attack teak, mast tree, mango, Cassia, Muntingia and many more garden trees. You may see it in the nearby jungles too. The largest specimen I ever saw was 6 meters long. Unlike mistletoes (Viscaceae) many Dendrophthoe may in addition to the tuber-like point of infection send out runners along branches and thereby seriously damage its host. We believe we lost our beloved lacquer tree (Gluta usitata, Anacardiaceae) due to these parasites.

Frequent pruning and observation are the best methods to keep the population of the parasite at low levels. This time of the year is perfect, because many trees are naked and the evergreen parasite is therefore easily found. Also, fungal spores are not so prevalent, so theoretically pruning is better now than in the rainy season. Ladders and pole saws are very useful. The Dendrophthoe can also be parasitized by the hyper-parasite Viscum articulatum. In such a case you see dark green leaves with white berries, looking like a bird’s nest.

Eric Danell

Dendrophthoe longiflora is one of six native species in Thailand. At Dokmai Garden we need to balance between pedagogic displays and controlling it.

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