Feb 19, 2018
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Common Parasitic Plants That Might Be Harming Your Trees

Plant parasites play an important role in nature. Though they take nutrients from their host species rather than producing their own, they usually keep them alive to avoid having to search for a new host. Parasitic plants commonly target dominant tree varieties, which can help provide an opportunity for other species to grow. It can be healthy to have a few parasitic plants active in a balanced ecosystem. However, in cities like Atlanta, Georgia, and others across the world, urban and suburban environments are not  naturally balanced ecosystems. When a parasitic species appears in your backyard, it can quickly take over your favorite tree, putting it and other nearby plants in danger of damage, disease, and even death. At 404-CUT-TREE, we provide a wide range of residential and commercial tree services, and we have seen firsthand what these nutrient thieves can do to your landscaping. Here is a description of a handful of the most commonly found parasitic plants that might be harming your trees.


Most people are aware of the Mistletoe’s role in winter holiday celebrations, as these plants are often hung from boughs or in doorways where people passing underneath must kiss. However, many people are unaware that in the wild, this plant is a persistent parasite. Mistletoe prefers not to completely overtake their host tree, but it can severely weaken the host’s crown and will replace a tree’s lush green foliage with its own. These plants are usually easy to recognize, as their bright green leaves and white berries stand out in the winter and early spring against their hosts’ bare branches.

Ghost Plant

Some call this ethereal parasitic plant Ghost Plant, Corpse Plant, or Indian Pipe. While it is more rare now than in the past, it can still be found growing at the base of tree trunks across North America. Most plants contain chlorophyll, a critical part of the energy-producing process of photosynthesis. However, the Ghost Plant needs no chlorophyll, because it gets its energy from the host plant and its nutrients from tree fungi. Therefore, this unique plant appears white or light pink. Beech trees are particularly susceptible to Ghost Plant infestations.


Wisteria is actually a flowering legume that grows into a beautiful climbing vine. This ornamental plant is native to Japan, Korea, and China, but also thrives in North America. Many homeowners purposefully grow wisteria for its beautiful purple and white flowers. However, it is important to stay alert to any uncontrolled growth, because the vines grow quickly and can weaken or even kill trees, shrubs, and other plants.


Cuscuta, also known as Dodder, Fireweed, or Devil’s Hair, is a plant made of thin, leafless stems that wrap around their host plant. Once established, it will begin to grow roots that leech off of the host’s vascular system and absorb its nutrients. It can often be seen amongst flax, clover, and alfalfa fields, as well as hanging from a wide variety of trees.

Are You Searching for a Certified Arborist in Atlanta, Georgia? Call 404-CUT-TREE Today

If you recognize any of the above plants on your Atlanta, GA property, contact the team at 404-CUT-TREE right away. Our certified arborists and tree care specialists can help diagnose and treat the problem before it overtakes your neighborhood. In addition, our experts can perform a tree risk assessment to ensure that the harm done to your tree isn’t going to pose a health or safety threat to your home or loved ones. Call today for more information or to schedule a convenient appointment in Atlanta, Dunwoody, Johns Creek, Decatur, Marietta, Norcross or other nearby metro area communities.