While hiking in Red Rock Canyon, you may notice brownish clumps growing in the branches of various shrubs & trees. What you are seeing is mistletoe (Phoradendron spp.) living on another plant, stealing some of that other plant’s water and nutrients. Think of mistletoe like a bad roommate who eats your food but doesn’t pay rent!

Two species of mistletoe are present in Red Rock Canyon: juniper mistletoe (Phoradendron juniperinum) and desert/legume mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum). Juniper mistletoe grows on Utah junipers (Juniperus osteosperma) and is green-brown in color with white berries, while desert/legume mistletoe grows on catclaw (Acacia greggii) & honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) and is typically red-brown in color with red berries. Phainopepla birds (Phainopepla nitens) eat the berries and disperse the seeds through their digestive tract, often leaving behind droppings on other host plants. Although they are a tasty treat for wildlife, we do not recommend eating mistletoe as it can be very toxic to your health.

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