Thursday, 24 May 2007

The perfect host?


Mistletoe is funny stuff. A patch of Wire-leaf Mistletoe Amyema preissii caught my eye. It's growing in a Cootamundra Wattle Acacia baileyana, and it set me to thinking as I drove to work. Why a Cootamundra?


My first introduction to this mistletoe was finding it growing on Black Wattle Acacia mearnsii by the side of a track. It was abundant. Almost as much mistletoe as wattle. My second sighting was a breath-taking moment when I was wandering through a bush block at Homerton. In the deep shade I came face-to-face with Wire-leaf Mistletoe growing on a Black Wattle. It was at eye level, and flowering. I was in awe of how beautiful it looked.


And today I looked at it growing on the Cootamundra and thought it looked 'wrong'. The Cootamundra is not indigenous to this area—in fact it's a weed in places—the leaf is totally different in shape to that of the Black Wattle and the colour is different as well. The Wire-leaf Mistletoe blends in on a Black Wattle but stands out on Cootamundra.

Does it grow on Cootamundra Wattle in Cootamundra? Paul Downey (Cunninghamia, Vol. 5(3): 1998) reported that specimens of this mistletoe in Australian herbariums were found on 73 host species, mostly wattles. When the Mistletoebird flies from one tree to another and deposits a sticky seed on a branch why does this particular mistletoe mainly germinate on wattles?

I haven't noticed it growing on the numerous other wattle species that grow in this district, but perhaps it does. I'll have to take particular notice. But I'm already a danger on the road because I'm looking at the birds! Walking is good exercise I'm told. Maybe I'll give that a go.

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