Growing clumps of mistletoe in trees along Bear Creek don't have residents in a kissing mood.
According to one upset tipster, the problem could have Merced kissing its abundant arbor goodbye: "We're known as Tree City USA, but that won't continue if the mistletoe is allowed to keep growing, because it will kill the trees. It will just spread to all the other trees in Merced," she said.
I took a nice stroll along the south side of the creek, between G and M streets, on Wednesday to check out the problem.
Sure enough, clumps of mistletoe were growing high in the treetops, and even seemed to overtake one poor tree.
The usually jolly plant causes concern among arborists because it can embed its roots in living trees, only to eventually deprive the tree of all water and nutrients causing it to die, according to the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program.
What's more, mistletoe berries are particularly attractive to birds, which spread living seeds in their droppings. The bird droppings can spread the plant to nearby trees, or cause several plants to proliferate in single trees.
The good news?
It is easier to see the mistletoe and deal with it when the leaves are gone, said Mike Conway, spokesman for the city of Merced.
Conway said city crews were in the process of clearing mistletoe from trees in the area when the rainstorms hit. During such storms, resources are shifted to road problems, fallen limbs and plugged drains.
Crews to cut the plants can't make it back to the area until the ground is firm enough for large equipment, added George Sanchez, public works supervisor for the parks and tree division.
Sanchez said the trees department works methodically each year to cover almost all of the public trees that call city land home. One issue in controlling the problem is lingering plants on private property, Sanchez said. He encouraged landowners with mistletoe infestations to call a tree company for clean-up. "I would encourage everyone to remove their mistletoe. Not just for their trees, but for everyone," he said.
If you have questions about mistletoe, or want to report an infestation on public land, call the city's public works department at (209) 385-6800.
What's wrong: Mistletoe appears to be growing in the trees along Bear Creek.
Who's responsible: Blame it on the birds.
What's being done: Street crews from the city attack the pesky plants as soon as next week.
Tip off the tip list!
If you see something broken or in need of repair in your neighborhood, call the Sun-Star Tip List reporter, Danielle E. Gaines, with your tips at (209) 385-2477 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.