I spotted this pretty flower while walking with my family at some managed wetlands about an hour to the East of where I live. At first thought I’d stumbled across an intricate new eucalypt flower that I hadn’t seen before.
Then I saw another and another…and then I realised I was seeing them peeking out from acacias and other plants too.
Hmm. Time for a closer look.
Aha. We were now pretty certain that what we were looking at was an Australian mistletoe, but I have to admit that I was only able to confirm it when we returned home to the wonder of the internet and the Australian National Botanic Gardens Mistletoe page. Here I found out that this was most likely Amyema miquelii and that the photo above shows the plant’s haustoria attached to the host acacia. You can clearly see the different bark of the two plants with the mistletoe leading downwards.
It seems quite a lot of plants around the world are thrown under the common name ‘Mistletoe’. We have several different types that are native to Australia and from what I can glean, we don’t have any that are introduced. I don’t think we are in the habit of kissing beneath them either.
Australian mistletoes often kill the branch they attach to and sometimes damage the tree enough to kill the whole thing. But recent studies (see ‘Misunderstood Mistletoe‘ article) suggest that a tree dying is not necessarily caused by the mistletoe and it may only be weak or diseased plants that cannot accommodate the parasite. This and other research also points out that it is a valuable food source for many insects and birds (but this of course is also how it is helped to get around!)
On the other hand there is now more mistletoe around than ever before, so I think the jury is still out on the debate of mistletoe pros and cons.
Thinking about what we saw at the wetlands, there was mistletoe on every third or fourth tree, so that did seem a little worrying. But it might just be the case that we only spotted it because it was in flower and that these plants have happily co-existed for some time.
Time to change the subject as I’m starting to talk myself around in circles. Have you ever seen an Australian black swan? These two were also snapped at the Sale wetlands gliding over to see if we had brought food. We hadn’t. They soon glided off again!