Plant: aerial parasitic shrub; 2-15 dm high, woody, glabrous or hairy; SHOOTS 4-10 dm high, often pendulous with age, green-reddish, with internodes ca. 2 cm long, canescent (especially apical internodes) Leaves: reduced to minute scales INFLORESCENCE: staminate spikes with 2-3 fertile segments, ca. 6 flowers per fertile segment; pistillate spikes with ca. 3 fertile segments, 2-3 flowers per segment Flowers: sunken along the axis; perianth segments usually 3, persistent in fruit; staminate flower with a sessile minute (less than 2 mm), 2-chambered anther; pistillate flower with a single style and rounded stigma Fruit: white-reddish, glabrous, ca. 3 mm in diameter Misc: 50-1400 m (50-4600 ft); Jan-Mar Notes: HOSTS: Prosopis, Cercidium, Olneya, Acacia, Condalia, Parkinsonia, rarely Larrea and Simmondsia References: J.C. Hickman, ed. The Jepson Manual. W.B. McDougall. Seed plants of Northern Arizona. ASU specimens. Hawksworth, Frank G. 1994. Viscaceae. J. Ariz. - Nev. Acad. Sci. Volume 27(2), 241-245.
Hawksworth and Wiens 1993, Kearney and Peebles 1969, Wiggins 1964
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Subshrub General: Branches arching to drooping, often forming much branched masses in desert trees, especially legumes. Stems terete, at first silvery-green pubescent with minute, appressed scalelike hairs, soon glabrous and green to reddish green. Leaves: Closely appressed to stem, 1-2.5 mm, at first green or yellow-green and quickly drying as persistent scales or remaining green only at base. Flowers: Dioecious or occasionally monoecious; fragrant, calyx thick, fleshy, and yellow-green; anthers short and yellow; perianth segments usually three, persistent in fruit; pistillate flower with a single style and rounded stigma. Fruits: Globose, 4.5-5.5 mm when fresh, the fresh pulp viscid and translucent white, salmon colored on exposed surfaces and whitish to yellow-white when not exposed to sunlight. Explosive dehiscence. Ecology: Found on host plants through southwest; flowers December-February. Distribution: c and s CA, c and s NV, AZ, s UT, s NM; south to n MEX. Notes: Phoradendron can be distinguished partially by their host plant. P californicum distinguished by growing on Legumes (Prosopis, Olneya, Acacia etc..) and also the leaves which are reduced to scales. Flowering and fruiting non-seasonally, birds love this species and help to spread. Ethnobotany: Decoction of the berries was taken as purge by the Pima. It was used for washing sores, for stomachaches, boiled, dried and stored for food. Etymology: Phoradendron is from Greek phor, a thief and dendron, tree-hence tree thief because of its parasitism, while californicum refers to California. Synonyms: Phoradendron californicum var. distans, P. californicum var. leucocarpum Editor: SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2015