Desert Mistletoe ( Phoradendron californicum ) or mesquite mistletoe, is a leafless parasitic plant which attaches itself to a host plant. The host plant is typically Ironwood, Mesquite, Palo Verde, or Acacia. The hemi parasitic plant, when attached, will remove water and nutrients from the host, however it still performs its own photosynthesis in the green stems.
The female Desert Mistletoe will produce small flowers in the winter months. It turn it will produce small clear or red colored berries which are consume by birds and therein the seeds are spread. A plant can grow up to to three feet in size and should several attached to a individual, they are capable of killing the tree.
The seeds can be utilized as a food source for humans as well and utilized by some Native American tribes. Typically, the seeds are only consued from plants growing on Ironwood, Acacia or Mesquite. The stems and remaining plant body should not be consumed as they are poisonous and a hallucinogenic. Each year, people die from consuming mistletoe seeking a “high”. For those of us, not of Native American ancestry it is not uncommon to harvest and sell this species of mistletoe around the holiday season.