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Vascular Plants of California
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Phoradendron californicum

Higher Taxonomy
Family: ViscaceaeView DescriptionDichotomous Key
Habit: Perennial herb, shrub, generally +- green, parasitic on aboveground parts of woody plants; dioecious [monoecious]. Stem: brittle; 2° branches generally many. Leaf: simple, entire, opposite, 4-ranked, with blade or scale-like (then each pair generally fused). Inflorescence: spikes or cymes, axillary or terminal; bracts opposite, 4-ranked, scale-like, each pair fused. Flower: unisexual, radial, 2--4 mm; perianth parts in 1 series. Staminate Flower: perianth parts 3--4(7); anthers generally sessile, opposite and generally on perianth parts. Pistillate Flower: perianth parts generally 2--4; ovary inferior, 1-chambered, style unbranched, stigma +- obscure. Fruit: berry, shiny. Seed: 1(2), without thickened coat, gelatinous.
Genera In Family: 7 genera, +- 450 species: tropics, generally northern temperate. Toxicity: All parts of most members may be TOXIC. Note: Sometimes included in Loranthaceae; parasitic on plants in many other families.
eFlora Treatment Author: Job Kuijt
Scientific Editor: Thomas J. Rosatti.
Genus: PhoradendronView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Common Name: MISTLETOE
Habit: Perennial, woody at least at base, glabrous or short-hairy. Stem: generally > 20 cm, not angled, green, less often +- red. Leaf: with blade or < 1 mm, scale-like. Inflorescence: spikes, few- to many-flowered, peduncled; flowers +- sunken into axis. Flower: perianth parts generally 3. Staminate Flower: anthers 2-chambered. Pistillate Flower: perianth parts persistent. Fruit: +- 3--6 mm, +- spheric, 1-colored, white, pink, or +- red, bird-dispersed; pedicel 0. Chromosomes: n=14.
Species In Genus: +- 240 species: temperate, tropical America. Etymology: (Greek: tree thief)
Unabridged Note: Phoradendron leucarpum (Raf.) Reveal & M.C. Johnst. (Phoradendron serotinum (DC.) A. Gray; name change relative to TJM2 made necessary by ruling of Committee for Spermatophyta) collected in Texas for sale nationally in Christmas trade; other species similarly important locally. Plants at some sites (e.g., Pinnacles National Monument) do not conform to key(s) and/or descriptions, as to hosts and/or morphology (see Kuijt 2003); such problems thus far unsolved, though minimized here.
eFlora Treatment Author: Job Kuijt
Reference: Abbott & Thompson 2011 J Bot Res Inst Texas 5:139--141; Kuijt 2003 Syst Bot Monogr 66:1--643
Phoradendron californicum Nutt.
Stem: 4--10 dm, erect to spreading, +- red to green, canescent, especially at tip, +- glabrous in age; internodes 13--28 mm. Leaf: < 1 mm, scale-like. Staminate Inflorescence: fertile internodes 1--3(6), 6--14-flowered. Pistillate Inflorescence: fertile internodes 1--3(7), 2(3)-flowered. Fruit: +- 3 mm, white to red-pink, glabrous.
Ecology: Desert, on Acacia, (Larrea), Olneya, Parkinsonia, Prosopis, Simmondsia; Elevation: < 1200 m. Bioregional Distribution: WTR, D; Distribution Outside California: Nevada, Arizona, Baja California. Flowering Time: Jan--Mar
Synonyms: Phoradendron californicum var. distans Trel.; Phoradendron californicum var. leucocarpum (Trel.) Jeps.
Jepson eFlora Author: Job Kuijt
Reference: Abbott & Thompson 2011 J Bot Res Inst Texas 5:139--141; Kuijt 2003 Syst Bot Monogr 66:1--643
Index of California Plant Names (ICPN; linked via the Jepson Online Interchange)

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Botanical illustration including Phoradendron californicum

botanical illustration including Phoradendron californicum


Citation for this treatment: Job Kuijt 2013, Phoradendron californicum, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, Revision 1, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=37896, accessed on May 26, 2020.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2020, Jepson eFlora,, accessed on May 26, 2020.

Phoradendron californicum
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© 2020 Steve Matson
Phoradendron californicum
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© 1997 Christopher L. Christie
Phoradendron californicum
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© 2008 Neal Kramer
Phoradendron californicum
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© 2012 Keir Morse
Phoradendron californicum
click for enlargement
© 2012 Keir Morse
Phoradendron californicum
click for enlargement
© 2020 Steve Matson

More photos of Phoradendron californicum in CalPhotos

Geographic subdivisions for Phoradendron californicum:
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map of distribution 1
(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurence).


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Data provided by the participants of the  Consortium of California Herbaria.
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All markers link to CCH specimen records. The original determination is shown in the popup window.
Blue markers indicate specimens that map to one of the expected Jepson geographic subdivisions (see left map). Purple markers indicate specimens collected from a garden, greenhouse, or other non-wild location.
Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.

CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa, if there are more than 1 infraspecific taxon in CA.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time (fruiting time in some monocot genera).