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hemlock dwarf mistletoe

Arceuthobium tsugense
This information is part of a full datasheet available in the Crop Protection Compendium (CPC);www.cabi.org/cpc. For information on how to access the CPC, click here.
©CAB International. Published under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence.

Distribution

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Host plants / species affected

Main hosts

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Tsuga heterophylla (western hemlock)
Tsuga mertensiana (Patton's hemlock)

List of symptoms / signs

Stems - distortion
Stems - witches broom

Prevention and control

The following methods for controlling Arceuthobium spp. may have utility for the management of A. tsugense.
Cultural Control

In the absence of any simple direct means of control of dwarf mistletoes, and the vast areas of forest involved, cultural management is virtually the only approach to the problem, the techniques varying according to the type of stand in which the problem occurs. Management options listed by Hawksworth and Johnson (1989) include:

- Survey

- Use RMYLD model to predict yields (Edminster, 1978; Hawksworth, 1978)

- Favour or plant resistant tree species

- Prune infected branches and witches' brooms

- Destroy the whole stand (including the use of fire) and regenerate

- Fell non-merchantable infected trees

- Sanitation thin

- Harvest and regenerate the stand

- Do nothing.

Hawksworth and Johnson (1989) also refer to mechanisms to help prevent infection, including the use of natural or man-made barriers (roads, streams, strips of non-susceptible forest) to reduce (re)invasion from adjacent infested stands; and removing infected trees before re-planting/regeneration.

Detailed surveys are an essential ingredient of successful control programmes and the 6-class rating system (Hawksworth, 1977) is widely accepted as a standard. This involves a 0-6 score based on 0, 1 or 2 for each third (lower, middle, upper) of the tree; 0 for no infection, 1 for light infection (less than half the branches affected) or 2 for heavy infection (more than half infected).

In recently harvested, regenerating stands, the emphasis is on the complete removal of any infected trees over 2 m, regardless of commercial value, both within the stand, and along borders to a distance of 18 m, before the regeneration is 1 m high.

In pre-commercial stands in which surveys show less than 40% infected trees, it should be economic to practice selective thinning to remove all those infected. Above 40% this is unlikely to be economic. Severely infested stands may best be harvested early and regenerated, but decisions may require use of available models to help devise the most economic option. Some of the available models are described by Muir and Geils (2002).

Dwarf mistletoes may contribute in various ways to biodiversity - by creating openings in the forest following tree death, by providing nesting sites in the 'brooms' and by providing food for a range of vertebrates and invertebrates. There can therefore be some conflict between the requirements of forest exploitation, and environmental concerns.

Mechanical Control

Pruning may be appropriate as a means of reducing damage to individual trees, but more generally to reduce the source of infection for surrounding trees. The practicality, however, is that it will only be feasible in particular amenity and recreation areas.

Clear-felling (with or without fire) is appropriate where a stand is so severely infested that it needs to be abandoned and regenerated or re-planted.

Chemical Control

Due to the variable regulations around (de-)registration of pesticides, we are for the moment not including any specific chemical control recommendations. For further information, we recommend you visit the following resources:

Impact

Arceuthobium species as a whole are regarded as some of the most serious of all pests/diseases of North American forests. Dwarf mistletoes are much more damaging to their hosts than the 'green' mistletoes in both Loranthaceae and Viscaceae. Having little photosynthetic capacity, they draw more heavily on host carbohydrate, and furthermore interfere with photosynthate translocation to the roots. The mistletoe has a girdling effect, resulting in an accumulation of photosynthate above the site of infection. Apparently carbohydrates are withheld from the roots in quantities sufficient to cause the characteristic decline of the tree (Rediske and Shea, 1961; Hawksworth and Wiens, 1996). There are also severe growth-regulatory effects resulting from cytokinin production at the point of infection and the redirection of host photosynthate into the resulting witches broom growths. These distort and suppress growth of branches and even the main trunk. Wood quality is further affected as a result of swellings, witches' brooms and knots, and structural weakening associated with shortened, distorted tracheids.

A. tsugense is a severe pathogen of Tsuga mertensiana and T. heterophylla in western North America.