31 March 2022

Mistletoe Plicosepalus curviflorus - Dhahran Al Janub

When birding at Dhahran Al Janub we came across a number of Mistletoes Plicosepalus curviflorus which is a common species providing useful food for livestock. The leaves are not markedly dissimilar and are clustered on short shoots about 2–7.5 centimeters long. Petals separate, 2.5–3.5 centimeters long; basal part below filament-insertion red, yellow or less often white or orange. They occur in deciduous bushland and Acacia woodland, almost always on Acacia, from 50–2300 metres above sea level. The rnage is north along the Red Sea coast to southernmost Egypt, through Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti to Kenya, Uganda, eastern Zaire and Tanzania, also in the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula. Mistletoes are epiphytic hemiparasitic plants that are known to negatively affect the growth of their hosts, increase tree mortality, and as a consequence change the community dynamics. Mistletoe alters the mineral nutrition of the host and the nutrient cycle in the soil.  Overall, it appears that mistletoe infection has a dual effect. It threatens the health of the Acacia, potentially killing its host tree due to absorption of host nutrients particularly when the infection intense. It also has a positive effect in that it improves the availability of the micro-habitat of nutrients under the canopy, which in turn may contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity.