Mistletoe is a flowering, vascular plant that is a parasite of trees and shrubs. In many cultures around the world mistletoe is thought to have spiritual or medicinal power. In Japan and England for instance, mistletoe was once though to promote fertility.
Mistletoe was also thought to bring good luck which was the original reason it was hung in doorways. In America, mistletoe is a decoration for Christmas and a way to steal a kiss.
Mistletoe in trees is a problem because it is a parasite. Seeds are sticky and can be spread by birds or just falling from upper branches to lower branches. The seed germinates and produces a radicle that grows until it meets a bud or leaf base. It then flattens out and penetrates the bark. (forestpathology.org)
This penetration into the bark can extend several inches. This is why when removing mistletoe from trees simply cutting it off near the bark is only a temporary measure.
To effectively control mistletoe there are three options. The first is to spray the mistletoe with a foaming type herbicide. The second method is to first prune the mistletoe from the tree by removing the branch it is attached to at least 12 to 18 inches below the mistletoe. The third method is to first prune out the mistletoe back to the bark and then wrapping 10 mil black plumber's tape around the limb so that no light can reach the mistletoe. Without light the mistletoe will die within about a year. Using plumber's tape is preferable when the size of the limb is large or the mistletoe is growing on the main trunk of the tree. This method is also more eco-friendly than using a foaming herbicide.
When pruning out the mistletoe it is important to be aware of berries growing in the mistletoe. If berries are dropped carelessly onto branches below the seeds will likely cause further infestation after the job is completed.
It is important to hire a qualified Arborist familiar with mistletoe control to effectively remove it.