Did you see the news about our experimental planting of mistletoe into Plane trees around the city to boost biodiversity? Well that was over 12 months ago now and we want to see if it worked! Are we the proud parents of 864 new mistletoe plant-babies?

We need your help to carry out surveys to understand if, and where, our planted seeds have resulted in established plants.

Please note that in order to participate in this activity, you must be a registered volunteer in the Citizen Forester Program. To join the program, click the link at the top of the page.

You can read more about our mistletoe project in the news.

Please note this activity has now finished.

You can sign up to join a survey at any of the following times, or more than one if you really want to!

Thursday 9 August

1:00pm - 4:00pm

Friday 10 August

9:00am - 12:00pm

1:00pm - 4:00pm

Saturday 11 August

9:00am - 12:00pm

1:00pm - 4:00pm

Sunday 12 August

9:00am - 12:00pm

1:00pm - 4:00pm SESSION FULL


To sign up, simply email nature@melbourne.vic.gov.au with your preferred session time, or click the link on the right of this page.

Each survey will leave from Council House 2, 240 Little Collins Street, Melbourne. We'll meet in the lobby at the start of the allotted time.

To find this place on Google maps, head to https://goo.gl/maps/ZCnxwJ234Pw

After meeting at Council House 2, you'll travel with your survey leader either by car or by foot to visit trees throughout the city that have been inoculated with mistletoe seeds.

Using binoculars, you'll carry out a visual inspection of each tree to record if any baby mistletoe has grown.

No prior experience is required and your survey leader will provide instructions for tree inspections.

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes for walking.

Dress appropriately for the weather, including sun protection (hat, sunscreen, long sleeves) and warm or waterproof clothing, as appropriate.

It's also a good idea to bring some water.

Mistletoe is an indigenous plant that grows in the canopy of trees. There are over 90 native species of mistletoe in Australia, with six indigenous to Melbourne.

Mistletoe partially relies on tree hosts to obtain water and nutrients (“hemiparasitic”) and therefore has traditionally been regarded as a pest. But in native forests, mistletoe acts as a small but powerful biodiversity amplifier (“keystone species”).

In 2012, when Professor David M. Watson and colleagues from Charles Sturt University (CSU)removed mistletoe from entire woodland patches, the number of woodland bird species dropped by 30 per cent compared to unaltered sites.

This is because mistletoe provides a range of resources for wildlife including highly nutritious pollen, nectar, fruit, and leaves; as well as cool, leafy places to hide and build nests.

The City of Melbourne recently commissioned Professor Watson and Melinda Cook from CSU to undertake an extensive literature review of Mistletoe Ecology in Urban areas worldwide to form the basis of our project.

The research found that virtually nothing is known about mistletoe ecology in urban systems because most research on mistletoe has been done in natural forests or agricultural landscapes. Our research and experimental trials is a world-first.

For example, the benefits of mistletoe in providing foliage microclimates as climate refuges and nesting locations for animals; the role of mistletoe in bioremediation, air pollution reduction and the mitigation of the urban heat island effect are totally unexplored.

As a result City of Melbourne Urban Forest and Ecology team used cherry pickers to experimentally plant mistletoe in selected Plane trees around the city.

Our aim is to see how many mistletoe plants establish, what factors affect their establishment, and to see if plantings can be used to bring more birds and butterflies to our parks and streets.

Planting mistletoe on established urban trees is a novel management tool that we hope will enhance the value of our natural infrastructure to wildlife and improve the overall ecological function of the City.

Want to learn even more about mistletoe? Check out the Watson Lab.

Results

Over four days in August, 18 Citizen Forester volunteers braved the wind and rain to check on the mistletoe seeds and see how many have germinated. In 2017, 832 mistletoe seeds were artificially planted on 26 London plane trees. The survey revealed 24 live seedlings, a survival rate of nearly 3%. That might not sound like much, but it's actually a really good success rate for mistletoe!

The baby mistletoe was hard to spot, so Citizen Foresters had to look at the branches very carefully with binoculars. When a seedling displayed at least two cotyledons (the first leaves after germination) it was marked as alive. The most advanced seedling had produced seven leaves of varying sizes (see the picture below).

mistletoe plant on plane tree branch

Mistletoe photos

Not sure what mistletoe is? Take a look at these photos of misteltoe in Melbourne to get a better idea.