Pruning high-value Douglas-fir can reduce dwarf mistletoe severity and increase longevity in central Oregon

Product Type: 

Journal Article




Maffei, H.M., G.M. Filip, N.E. Grulke, B.W. Oblinger, E.Q. Margolis, and K.L. Chadwick

Suggested Citation: 

Maffei, H.M., G.M. Filip, N.E. Grulke, B.W. Oblinger, E.Q. Margolis, and K.L. Chadwick. 2016. Pruning high-value coastal Douglas-fir can reduce dwarf mistletoe severity and increase longevity in Central Oregon. Forest Ecology and Management 379:11-19. DOI:

Mid- to very large-sized Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menzieseii var. menziesii) that were lightly- to moderately-infected by dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium douglasii) were analyzed over a 14-year period to evaluate whether mechanical pruning could eradicate mistletoe (or at least delay the onset of severe infection) without significantly affecting tree vitality and by inference, longevity. Immediate and longterm pruning effects on mistletoe infection severity were assessed by comparing pruned trees (n = 173) to unpruned trees (n = 55) with respect to: (1) percentage of trees with no visible infections 14 years post-pruning, (2) Broom Volume Rating (BVR), and (3) rate of BVR increase 14 years postpruning. Vitality/longevity (compared with unpruned trees) was assessed using six indicators: (1) tree survival, (2) the development of severe infections, (3) the development of dead tops, (4) tree-ring width indices, (5) Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from high-resolution multi-spectral imagery, and (6) live-crown ratio (LCR) and increment. Twenty-four percent of the pruned trees remained free of mistletoe 14 years post-pruning. Pruning is most likely to successfully eradicate mistletoe in lightly infected trees (BVR 1 or 2) without infected neighbors. Pruning significantly decreased mean BVR in the pruned versus the unpruned trees. However, the subsequent average rate of intensification (1.3–1.5 BVR per decade) was not affected, implying that a single pruning provides ~14 years respite in the progression of infection levels. Post-pruning infection intensification was slower on dominant and co-dominants than on intermediate or suppressed trees. The success of mistletoe eradication via pruning and need for follow-up pruning should be evaluated no sooner than 14 years after pruning to allow for the development of detectable brooms. Based on six indicators, foliage from witches brooms contribute little to long-term tree vitality since removal appears to have little effect on resources available for tree growth and maintenance. In the severely pruned trees, tree-ring width was reduced for several years post-pruning, but then compensated with larger ring width in later years. Both NDVI and LCR increment were significantly higher for the pruned trees than the control trees, while the development of severe infections and/or dead tops was significantly (5X and 3X) higher for the controls. If possible, multiple indicators of tree vitality should be evaluated. Pruning can be worthwhile even if all the mistletoe is not removed, because mistletoe intensification is delayed. The impact of removing the brooms seems to be minimal, and post-pruning crowns had greater NDVI values.

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