We’re constantly trying to figure out the numerous tricks that Mother Nature is playing on us. It seems like there’s a new mystery phenomenon popping up every day. Most recently, residents of Sebastopol, California have been noticing bizarre orbs of unidentified material lodged into the branches of hardwood trees. They look like a deranged hedge trimmer went to work on a passion project, but the truth behind them poses a real danger to the plants.
The newspaper got the Sonoma County Master Gardeners to look into the issue, and the cause of Sebastopol’s tree balls is familiar to fans of Christmas tradition. The spheres are composed of mistletoe, a parasitic plant that latches on to hardwoods and leaches nutrients from them to survive. The globular forms are a natural shape, exposing the white berries of the plant to birds so they can spread the seeds.
Mistletoe isn’t native to California. The plant was introduced by horticulturalist Luther Burbank at his experimental farm in Sebastopol in the early part of the 20th century, and it quickly escaped its confinement and spread through the state. The Master Gardeners recommend that tree owners trim infected branches before the plant spreads and threatens the health of the tree.
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