Mistletoes 3: A naturalist’s account

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I have been tending mistletoes growing on my sui mei (Wrightia religiosa) and chillie (Capsicum annuum) plants for a couple of years now and seen the different stages of its growth and death!

There were three species of mistletoes growing at my old place: Dendrophthoe pentandra, Macrosolen cochincinensis (left) and M. retusus.

Seeds of D. pentandra grew and flourished on both the above plants and also on my limau perut (Citrus hystrix) [see seed germination]. These mistletoes attracted butterflies like Peacock Royal (Tajuria cippus maxentius) and other unknowns whose eggs hatched into queer caterpillars on my balcony. D. pentandra also attracted the lovely Painted Jezebels (Delias hyparete metarete), whose caterpillars will only eat leaves of this species. The flowers of sui mei attracted many sunbirds and flowerpeckers!

Seeds of M. cochinchinensis deposited on my sui mei never grew. In the garden below, D. pentandra and M. cochinchinsis were flourishing on the white champaka (Michelia alba), mock orange (Murraya paniculata) and mango (Mangifera indica) trees. It also grows on the guava (Psidium guajava) tree in my aunt’s garden (that’s where I got one batch of Jezebel babies). The M. retusus was found growing on mock orange. I know of other trees with D. pentandra – I often had to collect extra supplies for the ever hungry Jezebel cats!

I’ve seen the Olive-backed Sunbirds (Nectarinia jugularis) and Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) (left) feasting on the fruits of D. pentandra and M. cochinchinensis. But I’ve seen only the male flowerpecker defecating the mistletoe seeds!

Contributed by Angie Ng, images by YC

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