Interactions with Other Species

Viscum album parasitizes over 200 different species of tree and shrub.  This often stunts the growth of the host plant but large infestations can actually kill the host as well.  It has mutualistic relationships with pollinating insects (mostly bees) and a variety of seed-distributing birds such as the Mistle Thrush.


A variety of animals consume the leaves, shoots, and berries of the plant, though the leaves and stems contain viscotoxins that are deadly to many species (including humans).  The typical effects of Viscum album in humans include acute gastrointestinal problems such as stomach pains, also diarrhea and slow pulse.  Despite being deadly the leaves and young twigs are traditionally used by European herbalists to treat headaches, epilepsy, paralysis, hypertension, and debility.  Research is currently being done into the effectiveness of mistletoe lectins in inhibiting tumor growth and immune regulation.


Mistletoe on an oak treeViscum album in an Oak Tree