Parasites and Fungi

It feels a bit contradictive that something you want to get rid of and do not want to come back can be so beautiful. This is what I thought when I saw the striking colours of the Mistletoe flowers in my mango tree. If the plant would be left undisturbed it would slowly further infest and weaken the mango tree and spread to other trees in the area. Before I cut out the infested branches I made some pictures.

Though fungi do not belong to the group "plants", I added some on this page.


Latin: Decaisnina stenopetala?
Family: Loranthaceae
Indonesian: Benalu

Dropped mistletoe flowers
Dropped mistletoe flowers
ecaisnina stenopetala flowers
Mistletoe - flowers

One day I found under the mango tree in my garden bright coloured dropped flowers that I did not recognise. I was sure it was from a plant not present in my garden. To my surprise the plant grew right above my head in the mango tree. It was a Mistletoe species that lived on (and in) some of the branches of its host. Later I found more plants growing on my citrus tree with the same kind of thick wrath-like lumps (called haustoria) at the places where the parasites enter the branches.

Actually the 'Mistletoe" is a partial parasite (hemiparasite). Its roots penetrate into the host's tissue and absorb water and nutrients, but its leaves produce sugar through photosynthesis. The flowers of this mistletoe are beautiful bright red, yellow and green. According the book "The Ecology of Sulawesi" - Whitten et al, the flowers of Mistletoes in Makassar are pollinated by visiting flowerpeckers that carry pollen sticking on their bill base to other flowers. The sticky fruits of the Mistletoe are eaten by the same birds who spread these via their droppings. The 'glue' of the fruits is said not to be digested by the flowerpeckers, what makes the fruits easily stick to branches. And here is where the seeds geminates and the new life cycle begins.

Just after germination the leaves of this species Mistletoe are small and stand upright. Older plants develop next to stiff branches drooping twigs that in case of the mango tree clearly differ from the branches and leaves of the host plant. In older mango trees it can be a risky job to remove the parasites from higher parts. Often the way out is just to cut these branches at the point where climbing is still safe.

ecaisnina stenopetala hausteria
Mistletoe - attachment at Mango branch
ecaisnina stenopetala hausteria
Mistletoe twig drooping from Mango branch

Determining the species
As I had no idea what kind of mistletoe was growing in my garden, I started searching the internet. Soon I found out that the species belongs to the Loranthaceae family, but to my surprise I learned that this family has 73 genera and about 900 species! Differences between the species are not always that clear, even the more because a species can have a wide variation in flower colour. So, it is probably impossible to get any further without being a specialist or having the right literature. I contacted Dan Nickrent, a botanist and professor at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA) who is interested in Loranthaceae. This enthusiastic person gave prompt reply and ample explanation. He identified the species as Decaisnina stenopetala, but will need more information to make sure that no mistakes are made (an other similar species is D. zollingeri). I can imagine that with about 900 species in the family, identification from photographs can be difficult. Unfortunately my efforts to get rid of this parasite have been successful and is there no material left for more detailed identification.


Indonesian: Jamur

orange fungus yellow fungus white mushroom white mushroom fungus on leaves Jeruk Sambal

Now and then fungi show up in my garden. They come in a wide variety of shapes and colours. Unfortunataly I cannot find any information on the fungi in the photos shown here. Identification of species will be difficult because most fungi only appeared once and did never show up again. Anyhow, whatever their name, I think they are attractive and interesting, and are an important addition to the always changing garden life.


The pages in the categories "animals" and "plants" give an impression of life in the front- and backyard of my house in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. The photos were made in a period of several years.