Do we admire these beautiful trees? YES.
Do we understand the WA Christmas Tree? NO!
Do we protect the WA Christmas Tree? NO!
Our WA Christmas trees are beautiful but many of them are dying from actions by us humans. Mostly they are being bulldozed for housing, industrial developments or people are failing to protect them on their properties from damage by their livestock.
The WA Christmas tree is very unusual. It has no relatives and is classed in a genus by itself in the mistletoe family. Unlike other mistletoes that grow on the branches of their host trees, the WA Christmas tree grows in the ground. It is partially parasitic which means that its roots make rings round the roots of nearby plants and then extracts water and nutrients from those plants.
The WA Christmas Tree is the only plant in the mistletoe family that has seeds that are wind dispersed. The seeds have wings on them but because the seeds are quite large they often land just a few metres from the parent tree. The majority of seeds are eaten by ants and other creatures, or they are not able to germinate due to the circumstances not being ideal for germination.
During the flowering period which is now, the flowers are a rich source of nectar for the nectar eating birds and insects for the insect eating birds.
The trees develop thick trunks which are made from a starchy tissue which horses love to eat and they continue to chew until they kill the tree. It is important to fence off the WA Christmas trees from horses. It is also important that large numbers of animals are not allowed to stand under these trees, or any trees for that matter, for shade. The compaction of the ground by the hooves of livestock, particularly cattle and horses, can slowly kill a tree.
The weight of the flowers and leaves of the WA Christmas Tree often causes branches to break off the trees which gives them an irregular, often battered, look.
We do not fully understand the WA Christmas Tree and how to give it the best chance of survival when planted into a garden or a bushland setting. In their natural setting they appear to be tough and adaptable. They can be seen growing over a large area from Kalbarrie to Iraelite Bay which includes many different soil types and situations. In reality nobody knows how to help them to grow successfully in gardens or bushland.
For every one person who succeeds to grow a WA Christmas Tree there at least another five who fail.
This is a sad situation because it means that we are not able to replace the WA Christmas Trees that we destroy. It is important, however, that we keep trying and that we value all the comments, tips and suggestions from those who succeed.