Learn more about native mistletoe.

Green mistletoe establishment

Native mistletoe is hemi-parasitic. This means they need to take nutrients and water from another plant (their host) but they still photosynthesise and produce flowers and fruit.

There are nine different varieties of native mistletoe although one has been extinct since 1954. For this project, we are focusing on one of the green mistletoe, Ileostylus micranthus because it is capable of growing on over 200 host trees and shrubs. It is currently found on the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula.

Ileostylus grows on shrubs and trees, forming an evergreen ball of lush leaves – it can grow up to two metres but it is more commonly around one metre. This mistletoe produces small green flowers in summer and bright yellow fruit through autumn and winter. During winter when your deciduous trees lose their leaves, the mistletoe will brighten your garden.

Green mistletoe is also known to attract native birds, and insect pollinators such as bees.

Common host species

Green mistletoe/pirita (Ileostylus micranthus) is known to grow on over 200 types of trees, both native and exotic.

From the 2017 sowing, we found higher germination rates on the hosts below:

Common native species Common exotic species
  • Coprosma
  • Kōwhai
  • Hoheria
  • Olearia
  • Mānuka
  • Wineberry
  • Pittosporum
  • Veronica (hebes)
  • Oak
  • Tree lucerne
  • Lemon
  • Ash
  • Maple

The Backyard Mistletoe Project

This project was started as a student research project, funded by the Friends of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and University of Canterbury.

In 2016, mistletoe was seeded throughout the gardens, and 33 plants have established.

In 2017, mistletoe was seeded throughout 300 volunteer's backyards, and 350 plants have germinated.

For more information email: backyardmistletoe@ccc.govt.nz.