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December, 10, 2014
 Vol. 1, Issue 7
In This Issue
The CFPC Newsletter will be produced 10 times a year in 2015 as reporting is aligned with the CA Board of Forestry and Fire Protection meeting schedule.  The first report of the year will be issued January 28, 2015.
Mistletoe Facts And Lore

Two types of native mistletoes are found in North America - leafy mistletoe (genus

Leafy Mistletoe. By Angwin, USFS
Oak true mistletoe. By Angwin, USFS.

Phoradendron) and dwarf mistletoe (genus Arceuthobium). One of the most common leafy mistletoes in California is the oak mistletoe (Phoradendron villosum), which is popular during the holiday season. It has leathery leaves, grows in clumps, and is spread via birds excreting seeds onto branches (roughly translated from the original Anglo-Saxon, "mistletoe" means "dung on a twig"). Able to make its own food through photosynthesis, it only relies on its host plant for water and mineral nutrients. The relatively large plants (usually more than 6 in long) are easy to identify in winter after tree leaf drop occurs. In contrast, dwarf mistletoe prefers conifers. Its stems are just � - 5 in. long and greenish-yellow, olive, or brown in color. With limited ability to  photosynthesize, this parasitic plant draws most of its water and food from its host, making it much more damaging to the tree and leaving it more susceptible to insects and diseases. As dwarf mistletoe is difficult to see in the forest, it is best identified by looking for witches' brooms, or proliferations of conifer branches, 

Female western dwarf mistletoe with fruit. By Angwin, USFS.

which are caused by a mistletoe hormone that encourages tree growth near the mistletoe. Dwarf mistletoe is spread when the oblong-shaped fruit housing the seed explodes from pressure, shooting the seed and a sticky liquid ("viscin") to its landing 

location. Most seeds land within 20 ft. of the explosion; however, some have been found 

to travel as far as 50 ft.


At first glance, it may seem that these native plants have little benefit; however, they do provide food for birds and small animals, and witches' brooms are often used for nesting. For more fun mistletoe-related myths and lore, go to Mistletoe LoreChristmas Legend  and Lore: The Meaning of Mistletoe, and Myths and Lore of Mistletoe.  

How Harmful Is Willow Rust?

Is willow rust (Melampsora epitea) increasing in the Great Basin or has it always been widespread but no one has taken notice? Connie Millar, US Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station Paleoecologist, is intrigued with this question. She first noticed it in the Great Basin in 2013 on several Salix species, but once she started really looking for it she found it in many locations, from the canyons of the eastern Sierra Nevada and White Mountains of California, through much of central and northern Nevada, to the Snake Range, Ruby Mountains, and East Humboldt Mountains of eastern NV. Affected plants have been primarily in wet or moist habitats, with the rust occurring from low to high elevations. Her observations are in the autumn 2014 issue of Mountain Views newsletter .


Given the importance of willows in riparian areas, a better understanding of willow rust and willow health is needed. Please send any comments or insights to Connie ( regarding willow rust, its presence in the Great Basin region, and its effects on these ecosystems. 

Where Did The Porcupines Go?

The porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) population has shown a precipitous decline throughout California in the past decade. Important prey for fishers (Martes Americana- proposed for Endangered Species Act protection), depletion of this food supply is another stressor impacting fisher population stability, further complicating their management in forests.


In The Murrelet 1971 article, "Invasion of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties of Northwest California by Porcupines," wildlife biologist and Humboldt State University Professor

By Krissi Russell.
Charles Yocom provided historical context for how porcupines moved into northwestern California around the turn of the 20th century and the role that silviculture and forest management played in their expansion. By the 1950s, porcupines were well established in Humboldt, Del Norte, and Mendocino Counties. Yocum postulated that
the population "explosion" was a result of the increased
food supply caused by the conversion of primordial forests to brush fields and young second growth stands. 


However, today porcupine numbers below the 6,000 ft. elevation have plummeted throughout their established range, and there is not a clear cause for their collapse. While Yocom's thesis suggests that an increase in habitat carrying capacity was directly responsible for the expansion of both range and populations of porcupines into California, one could argue that stand conditions are still suitable for porcupines as most stands are relatively young with adequate supplies of suitable trees for foraging. The absence of porcupines has been rapid and dramatic, making it difficult to imagine that habitat quality alone is responsible for the decline. Our challenge now is to identify where they have gone and how to get them back. For more information, contact Greg Giusti, CFPC Animal Damage Committee Chair at

Newsletter feedback and ideas are welcome. Please submit comments to


Have a safe and happy holiday season, and remember when buying wood for home heating this winter to buy from a local source - Buy It Where You Burn It.




Katie Harrell (formerly Palmieri)

Communications Director

California Forest Pest Council
California Forest Pest Council | (510) 847-5482 | |

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