“You don’t want to buy that lot—the trees have mistletoe!” Our realtor pointed at a shrubby mass growing among the branches high in the Ponderosa pine.
It didn’t look anything like the mistletoe I was familiar with, coming from California. There, the live oaks often support huge masses of mistletoe. And neither plant resembled the old plastic “mistletoe sprig” I inherited from my parents, that we hung in our doorway at Christmastime to encourage kissing. Curious, I did some research. It turns out that there are hundreds, if not thousands of barely-related species of parasitic plants called mistletoe.
For the past few weeks, my blue car has been yellow. Drifts of fine mustard-yellow dust cover our patio, our deck, and the floors indoors. I dust, and dust, and dust again; each time the rag comes up yellow. What is this dull yellow layer that covers everything? It’s pollen. More specifically, Ponderosa Pine pollen.
For those of us who live with pine trees, the pollen season is a yearly event as predictable as the throngs of Miller Moths currently beating themselves to death against our windows, and happening at the same time of year. Because we had a lot of rain at the end of last summer, 2014 is particularly pollen-y. All those trees, once dying from thirst, have a new lease on life, and they’re taking full advantage.
Last summer we took a drive to Granby, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. While I had heard about the Mountain Pine Beetle for years, I was unprepared for the extent of the devastation. Entire mountainsides were covered in dead and dying pines, eerily resembling New England’s beautiful red fall foliage. But rather than deciduous maples and other hardwoods, these were conifers, largely ponderosas. They wouldn’t be turning green again come spring.
Many of us who live along the Front Range of the Rockies have ponderosa or other pines on our property. They’re well adapted to our climate and soils, and very resilient. But in spite of their suitability for our area, there are two major problems that pines can encounter. I discussed mistletoe last December. The other major cause of mortality is the mountain pine beetle (MPB).