Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the October 30, 2006 Newsletter issued from Genesis Retreat in Ek Balam, Yucatán, MÉXICO
TROPICAL MISTLETOE
PsittacanthusAt the right you can see an evergreen bushy plant with reddish flowers, up in a tree. It's a mistletoe, parasitic just like ours in the North. The one shown, called Chak k'ewis in Maya (genus PSITTACANTHUS), is parasitizing a Chakah or Gumbo-limbo tree (Bursera simaruba) in Genesis's garden. A nice close-up of flowers and leaves of a similar Psittacanthus is to be seen here.   

Mistletoes in our eastern North American forests produce small, understated flowers, but, as the above image suggests, this Chak k'ewis is a sight to behold. Often it provides the main splash of color in an otherwise green forest wall.

Also like our northern mistletoes, Psittacanthus typically doesn't kill its tree host. However, when I was in Querétaro a couple of weeks ago I remarked to Beto that trees in the oak-pine forests there bore unusually high numbers of Psittacanthuses. Beto said that a few years ago they'd suffered a bad drought in that area and that ever since the Psittacanthuses had been proliferating, sometimes to the point of killing their tree hosts. I assume that the drought weakened many trees' immune systems, enabling Psittacanthuses to take hold on trees that earlier had been able to fend them off. Even healthy trees don't "like" having mistletoes on them, since mistletoes steal water and nutrients from them.

Here the Psittacanthuses don't appear to be overly abundant. They just add splashes of color here and there, provide nectar to butterflies and hummingbirds, and make the landscape even prettier than it already is.


from the August 25, 2008 Newsletter Written in Sabacché and issued from a ciber in nearby Tekit, Yucatán, MÉXICO
TROPICAL MISTLETOE FLOWERING
Here are some flowers of a Psittacanthus growing in the scrub, on a Bean Family tree, near Sabacché, about half an hour southeast of Mérida:

Psittacanthus flowers

from the December 11, 2011 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO
TROPICAL MISTLETOE FRUITING

Below is some Tropical Mistletoe, genus PSITTACANTHUS, with its large, brightly red flowers, seen ten feet up:

Tropical Mistletoe, Psittacanthus

You can see that this mistletoe's fruits are much larger, and black instead of the North's white, below:

Tropical Mistletoe, Psittacanthus, black fruits