Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Consistency in seed-deposition patterns and the distribution of mistletoes among its host trees in an Amazonian savanna

Rodrigo Ferreira Fadini A C , Danielly Caroline Miléo Gonçalves B and Rúbia Patrícia Fernandes Reis B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Programa de Pós Graduação em Ecologia, INPA (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia), CP 478, Manaus, 69011-970, AM, Brazil.

B Universidade Federal do Pará, Campus de Santarém, Avenida Marechal Rondon, Caranazal, Santarém, 68040-070, PA, Brazil.

C Corresponding author. Present address: Universidade Federal do Pará, Campus de Altamira, Faculdade de Engenharia Florestal, Rua Coronel José Porfírio, s/n°, São Sebastião, Altamira, 68372-040, PA, Brazil. Email:

Australian Journal of Botany 57(8) 640-646
Submitted: 15 January 2009  Accepted: 17 November 2009   Published: 8 February 2010


The present paper describes the spatial distribution of the mistletoe Psittacanthus plagiophyllus Eichl. (Loranthaceae) on its host, the cashew tree Anacardium occidentale L., in a Brazilian Amazonian savanna. Our aim was to understand the roles of bird-seed dispersers and host quality in determining the mistletoe distribution among its host trees. In 2006, we marked 118 cashews in a 4.5-ha plot and counted the number of mistletoes and the presence of seeds attached to host branches in 2006, 2007 and 2008. On average, 36% of the hosts were infected each year. The infection load and the probability of being infected increased significantly with host crown diameter. On average, 25% of the hosts received at least one mistletoe seed in each year, being taller and previously infected hosts more prone to receive seeds in all 3 years. Elaenia cristata was the main seed disperser, visiting P. plagiophyllus 48 times in 35 h of focal records. Additionally, in a field experiment, we used the presence of an infection and the host size as surrogates for host quality and tested their effect on mistletoe survivorship. After 9 months, 16.5% of seeds survived and 14% had established, but neither host conditions nor host size influenced seed survivorship. Therefore, we suggest that mistletoe distribution is a consequence of a consistent dispersal of seeds onto larger and previously parasitised hosts across years.


We thank people of Alter do Chão village who helped make this work pleasurable, especially the families of Laudelino S. Vasconcelos and of Raimundo Castelo. We also thank CNPq (Edital Universal: project no. 479130/2006-0) for financial support. We are grateful to Davi Garcia, Wellton Sousa and Deliane Penha for their help during the fieldwork. RFF received a CAPES fellowship. Two anonymous referees provided valuable comments on the manuscript. Fabrício Baccaro, Renato Cintra and Marina Côrtes helped with earlier versions of the manuscript.


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