Dwarf mistletoe and pine tree symbiotic relationship examples

Symbiosis in the Forest

Dwarf mistletoe, a common problem in Colorado forests, predominantly affects ponderosa and lodgepole pines, although they can attack Douglas-fir, piñon. This paper will focus upon the relationships between ants and mistletoes, with It is likely that ants visit dwarf mistletoe flowers to feed upon the secreted nectar and The most noted examples of these include such rubiaceous epiphytes as Members of the genus Sapium are known as vegetable-tallow trees and the fatty. If the relationship is competitive, it means that only one organism gains something. The organism that gains something is called the parasite.

Mistletoe in winter All mistletoe species are hemiparasitesbecause they do perform at least a little photosynthesis for at least a short period of their life cycle. However, in some species its contribution is very nearly zero.

Dwarf mistletoes

For example, some species, such as Viscum minimumthat parasitize succulentscommonly species of Cactaceae or Euphorbiaceae, grow largely within the host plant, with hardly more than the flower and fruit emerging.

Once they have germinated and attached to the circulatory system of the host, their photosynthesis reduces so far that it becomes insignificant. Some species, such as Viscum capenseare adapted to semi-arid conditions and their leaves are vestigial scales, hardly visible without detailed morphological investigation. Therefore their photosynthesis and transpiration only take place in their stems, limiting their demands on the host's supply of water, but also limiting their intake of carbon dioxide for photosynthesis.

Accordingly their contribution to the host's metabolic balance becomes trivial and the idle parasite may become quite yellow as it grows, having practically given up photosynthesis. Not only do they photosynthesize actively, but a heavy infestation of mistletoe plants may take over whole host tree branches, sometimes killing practically the entire crown and replacing it with their own growth.

In such a tree the host is relegated purely to the supply of water and mineral nutrients and the physical support of the trunk. Such a tree may survive as a Viscum community for years; it resembles a totally unknown species unless one examines it closely, because its foliage does not look like that of any tree. An example of a species that behaves in this manner is Viscum continuum.


It commonly has two or even four embryos, each producing its hypocotylthat grows towards the bark of the host under the influence of light and gravity, and potentially each forming a mistletoe plant in a clump. Possibly as an adaptation to assist in guiding the process of growing away from the light, the adhesive on the seed tends to darken the bark. On having made contact with the bark, the hypocotyl, with only a rudimentary scrap of root tissue at its tip penetrates it, a process that may take a year or more.

Parasitic Plants: Corpse Flower, Mistletoe, and Dodder

In the meantime the plant is dependent on its own photosynthesis. Only after it reaches the host's conductive tissue can it begin to rely on the host for its needs. Later it forms a haustorium that penetrates the host tissue and takes water and nutrients from the host plant.

Many fail to land on a suitable host's shoot, but some succeed, and in this way they are spread through the forests as a pest front. The spread of dwarf mistletoes in forest stands is greatest from the overstory to the understory, due to gravity.

There are also a number of species from Europe and Asia including one of the smallest in the genus, A. Effects of parasitism[ edit ] In western forest ecosystems of North Americanumerous dwarf mistletoe species are considered to be serious forest-borne disease agents. Most of the commercially important conifers in western North America are parasitized by one or more dwarf mistletoes.

The interaction between dwarf mistletoes and their host can be generalized as a source-to-sink relationship. Dwarf mistletoes have a root-like endophytic system, composed of primary and secondary haustoriawhich invade, but do not injure, both the xylem and phloem of the host. Because this root-like endophytic system is not soil -borne, dwarf mistletoes are solely dependent on their host for water.

Along a xylem-to-xylem link, dwarf mistletoes draw water from their host due to differences in water potential between dwarf mistletoes and their hosts.

Dwarf mistletoes facilitate this water gradient by having greater transpiration rates, thereby producing lower water potentials and allowing water to flow from the hosts to the dwarf mistletoes. The water gradient or transpiration stream is consistently maintained, even when the host is under moderate water deficits.