March is flowering time for one of our most spectacular and best-known local mistletoes.
The russet mistletoe is often seen on its host trees - always Eucalyptus species - on our roadsides. It can be a magnificent plant, 2 metres tall.
As you can see, it flowers generously.
The petals are creamy-pink, but it is the red stamens which attract our attention.
Notice how the flowers are borne in neatly geometrical “triads”.
They will be followed by fruits which ripen in late winter. They may remain green when they’re ripe, or may turn pale cream.
Like all fruits of the Loranthaceae family of mistletoes, they are edible and tasty. Don’t be put off by their common name, which is “snottygobble”! To eat them, you squeeze them out of the skin into your mouth, trying not to touch the very sticky flesh.
These plants have a second spectacular phase in winter and spring, when their leaves can turn bright red. The effect is stunning when it grows on gums with blue-green foliage such as the silver-leaved ironbark Eucalyptus melanophloia.
I have recently been told that people who like to dye wool and fabric with Australian native plant material value this plant as a source of red dye.
Mistletoes cope well with pruning, so there is no need to destroy any plants while collecting material for the purpose.
This species grows on minor branches of its host, taking over the branch completely, without harming the tree as a whole.