Transformation of western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) tree crowns by dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium tsugense, Viscaceae)

Publications Type: 
Journal Article
Publication Number: 

Calkins, Stephen J.; Shaw, David C.; Lan, Yung-Hsiang. 2021. Transformation of western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) tree crowns by dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium tsugense, Viscaceae). Forest Pathology. 51(1): e12664. doi:


Dwarf mistletoes (Arceuthobium species) are arboreal, hemiparasitic plants of conifers that can change the structure and function of the tree crown. Hemlock dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium tsugense subsp. tsugense) principally parasitizes western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) and effects 10.8% of all western hemlock trees in Oregon, USA. In this study, we climbed 16 western hemlock trees (age 97-321 years, height 33-54.7m) across a gradient of infection (0%-100% of branches infected) and measured occurrence of all dwarf mistletoe infections, dwarf mistletoe caused deformities, foliage, branch and crown metrics, and sapwood area. We then modelled over 25 different response variables using linear and generalized linear models with three metrics of severity as explanatory variables: total infection incidence, proportion of all live branches infected, and proportion of all live, infected branches with 33 per cent or more foliage distal to infection. A strong effect of dwarf mistletoe intensification was the reduction of branch foliage and an increase in the proportional amount of foliage distal to infections, with severely infected trees having the majority of foliage distal to infections. Increasing severity led to an apparent crown compaction as crown volumes decreased and became increasingly comprised of deformities. Sapwood area was unrelated to infection severity. Branch length and diameters were unrelated to increasing infection severity despite severely infected branches supporting 1-70 infections. The most severely infected tree had 3,615 individual plants in the crown. Our results suggested that shifts in crown structure and branch deformation, foliage amount, and foliage distal to infection, reflected a likely reduction of capacity for tree growth that coincided with a hypothesized increase in resource demand by dwarf mistletoe plants as infection severity intensified.