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Dear Editor:

Reading the large article in the April 9, 2022 I found myself scratching my head and trying to understand quite a bit of the thrust of this article. Of course, it was large, covering the front page and also three other pages inside. I guess I’m concerned that the article was suggesting that mistletoe was bad, and should be removed because it is kills trees.

Kind of misleading really.

I had not heard before that I live in a “greenbelt.” I live in a village, next to a preserve. On Wikipedia a greenbelt describes something outside a city. This term explains perfectly the problem with bringing a big city attitude (where an isolated tree is considered nature) to the interconnected wonder of a real ecosystem.

If those trees are isolated and part of a garden, mistletoe “infestation” is debatable. Still, mistletoe as part of a healthy ecosystem in the bosque is bad? I don’t think so. Those birds that “plant” the mistletoe are actually eating it for a reason. There are not many berries around when the mistletoe has berries.

Mammals on the ground and in the trees also eat the leaves (which are not as poisonous as reported). When mistletoe acts as a decoy, it reduces the amount of bark those same mammals strip from young trees.

Mistletoe produce flowers and sugars that feed many types of insects that exist at the base of a complex food chain. In studies where mistletoe is removed from forests, there is over a quarter drop in the number of insect-feeding birds. The special location of those flowers and leaves high up in the crown of bare branches of the tallest trees is a unique environment exploited by special insects, such as purple hairstreak butterflies, that feed on this plant exclusively.

Mistletoe has a lot of history in our cultures, but also a lot of dogma. If you search the Internet most of what is written about the plant is by arborists who earn money removing it from private gardens and plantations. It is never removed from forests and not just because it is expensive, but because it is not necessary.

Silvaculture in Europe is far advanced of what is practiced in the United States, in spite of Johnny Appleseed. Orchard owners know broadleaf mistletoe is found where apple trees are.

It is not coincidental that most apple orchards are in the north of the village.

Apple growers in Europe grow and harvest mistletoe on purpose on their short, coppiced apple trees. They have mistletoe festivals (look it up on YouTube.)

Why is it a “battle” in New Mexico? If we cannot have understanding on the topic of growing trees, can there at least be educational debate among differing points of view?

Alex Price

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