Mistletoe kills trees at New Mexico lake

SOCORRO, N.M. (KRQE) – They breathe life into the world, but trees at one New Mexico lake have had the life taken out of them. They are being attacked by an invasive killer, and drastic measures are being taken to stop the plague.

Escondida Lake in Socorro has a little less shade these days. Seven trees surrounding the lake had to be cut down, and the culprit is a Christmas staple. Mistletoe, a poisonous parasite, is killing the trees, primarily cottonwoods.

“I noticed the last 15 to 20 years, I noticed the mistletoe, but I never thought anything of it that it was killing the trees,” said Michael Jojola, Socorro County’s Facility Director of Maintenance and Solid Waste. He hopes another 18 trees in danger will survive.

“We cut them down to try to save them, and 90 percent of the trees we cut on top were hollowed out, so we’re hoping that these trees will retake again,” Jojola said.

Showing KRQE News 13 another infected tree, Jojola said, “If you notice it, it’s all contaminated with mistletoe, and the top of the tree is already dead.”

“A lot of the branches, every time a hard wind came, they were breaking off and snapping off,” Jojola said.

Picnic tables were hit, and the fear was that people would be in the path of danger next.

“With the trees rotting, I can see the wind definitely blowing some stuff over, and making it hazardous out here. That’s definitely a concern,” said Escondida Lake Patron Jared Cash.

The trees that didn’t make it will still be put to good use.

“We’re going to carve statues of what’s left of them, like bears or beavers,” said Jojola.

New trees have already been planted, and Socorro County will plant new shade trees and mulberry trees which are resistant to mistletoe.

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