Amyema bifurcata

gum tree mistletoe


Amyema bifurcata

(Benth.) Tiegh. 1894

pronounced: a-my-EM-uh by-fur-KAH-tuh

(Loranthaceae — the mistletoe family)


common name: gum tree mistletoe

The name of the mistletoe family, Loranthaceae, is derived from the Greek λωρος (loros), a strap or thong, and ανθος (anthos), a flower, referring to the shape of the perianth parts. Amyema is from the Greek α– (a-), not, and μυεω (myeo), to initiate, referring to the separation of the genus from Loranthus, in which all mistletoes with bisexual flowers were formerly included. Bifurcata is from the Latin bifurcus, having two prongs. Amyema bifurcata is a mistletoe found only on species of Eucalyptus, and the specimen photographed is on a Cadaghi gum in Horseshoe Bay.

Mistletoes are aerial parasitic plants that use other plants to obtain their water and mineral nutrients, but they usually undertake their own photosynthesis through their leaves. They do not willingly kill their hosts, as that would lead to their own demise. Many mistletoes are host specific, and as such have often developed leaf foliage that mimics the foliage of the host plant. They reproduce from single seeds contained within small, sweet, sticky fruits, which, when attached to the branches of the host plant, develop into new mistletoe plants. When the seeds germinate, a modified root penetrates the bark of the host’s stem and forms a connection through which water and nutrients pass from the host to the mistletoe. They do this by melding their root structure into the woody structure of the host’s stem, and thereafter it becomes a living part of the stem, receiving all the nutrients that the foliage of the host plant receives.

Mistletoes are used by many animals, birds and insects as food sources, either by eating the plants or their fruits, or the nectar from the flowers. Possums eat both leaves and fruits, birds eat the fruits, birds and insects (particularly butterflies and moths) remove pollen and nectar, and the larvae of many butterflies and moths will eat the leaves and flowers, including those of:

      • Diggle's Jewel Hypochrysops digglesii,
      • Satin Azure Ogyris amaryllis,
      • Orange-tipped Azure Ogyris iphis,
      • Silky Azure Ogyris oroetes, and
      • Northern Jezebel Delias argenthona.

The young shoots of the pendant Gum Tree Mistletoe, the flowers, and sometimes the axes of inflorescence are rusty, covered with woolly or with scattered hairs, otherwise glabrous.

The leaves are linear to lanceolate, 6 – 40 cm long, up to 2.5 cm wide, the apex acute to rounded, the base attenuate, the petioles 1 – 4 cm long.

The inflorescence is a pedunculate umbel of paired flowers, the peduncles 1.5 – 4 cm long.


Photographs taken at Horseshoe Bay 2009
Page last updated 7th October 2018