Bringing back Mistletoe to the Hunua Ranges

AC and FOHR have received/ been approved a 5 year permit from DoC to re-establish green mistletoe into the Hunua Ranges.

Green Mistletoe (Ileostylus micranthus) historically would have been found throughout the native bush of the Hunua Ranges, but is now rare due to possums. It is now regionally threatened in Auckland, where there are only 5 known sites.  

Its flowers and seed would have been an important food source for native birds, geckos and insects.

Green Mistletoe is a hemiparasite that lives on other trees rather than in soil. It is not a true parasite because it also photosynthesises. It is spread mainly by birds who eat the berries and then wipe their bills on tree bark to remove the sticky seeds.

The mistletoes attaches to the host plant using a haustorium – a special structure that penetrates the cell of the host plant to gather nutrients.

Photo: (c) Jon Sullivan

Because the mistletoes doesn't grow in soil, seed cannot be propagated in a nursery and have to be inoculated directly on to a host tree, therefore volunteers from FoHR have been collecting seeds from the remnant population at Miranda and inoculating plants within the Hunua Ranges.

Green mistletoe favours totaraCoprosma proprinqua as host trees but it will grow on a range of other species. Host trees will have to be carefully chosen they will have to be situated in a sunny spot and be very healthy.

To inoculate a host tree, a small nick is made in the bark of a suitable branch, the seed which is very sticky, is then placed in the nick. The nick allows the haustorium to penetrate the host tree and the mistletoe establish.

How can you help

  • Mistletoe seeds are ripe in May and June we will need volunteers to help us collect seed from Miranda and inoculate host trees in Hunua.
  • Monitoring the existing population at Whakatiwai by measuring the size and health of mistletoe plants
  • Monitoring new sites – we will also need on-going help to check inoculation sites and monitor success.

If you are interested in helping out, drop us a line and we will stay in touch throughout this project.

Some of the work already under way. Photo: J. Barr Auckland Council

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