A citizen science project that aims to boost biodiversity by bringing back native mistletoe into urban Christchurch.

Green mistletoe/pirita has all but disappeared from urban Christchurch. 

Native birds, needed to spread mistletoe, are rarely found in the city. This means mistletoe isn’t returning naturally and needs our help. Encouraging the growth of mistletoe will boost biodiversity—and attract native birds and insects. 

Project update

  • 350 mistletoe have been recorded as germinating in our survey respondent's backyards. 
  • 750 seeds were sown by volunteers in Styx Reserve on Sunday 26 June.  

Register your interest

If you're not already on our mailing list, register your interest and we'll be in touch regarding the 2018 mistletoe sowing.

Mistletoe likes these trees

Green mistletoe/pirita (Ileostylus micranthus) is known to grow on over 200 types of trees, both native and exotic.

From the 2017 sowing, we found higher germination rates on the hosts below:

Common native species Common exotic species
  • Coprosma
  • Kōwhai
  • Hoheria
  • Olearia
  • Mānuka
  • Wineberry
  • Pittosporum
  • Veronica (hebes)
  • Oak
  • Tree lucerne
  • Lemon
  • Ash
  • Maple

More about mistletoe

Native mistletoes are hemi-parasitic. This means they need to take nutrients and water from another plant (their host). But they still photosynthesise and produce flowers and fruit.

For this project, we are focusing on one of the green mistletoe, Ileostylus micranthus. This species grows on over 200 host trees and shrubs. It is currently found on the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula.

This project was started as a student research project, funded by the Friends of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and University of Canterbury. Last year, mistletoe was seeded throughout the gardens, and 33 plants have established.

MIstletoe growing in a tree. Ileostylus grows on shrubs and trees, forming an evergreen ball of lush leaves – it can grow up to two metres but it is more commonly around one metre. This mistletoe produces small green flowers in summer and bright yellow fruit through autumn and winter.

During winter when your deciduous trees lose their leaves, the mistletoe will brighten your garden.

Green mistletoe is also known to attract native birds, and insect pollinators such as bees.

More information:

For more information email: backyardmistletoe@ccc.govt.nz