Fir dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium abietinum, Viscaceae) is a damaging parasite of true firs (Abies spp.) in California. In the Sierra Nevada Mountains, fir dwarf mistletoe consists of two special forms (formae speciales, f. sp.) which are morphologically similar, but exhibit a high degree of host specificity: A. abietinum f. sp. concoloris whose principal host is Sierra white fir (Abies lowiana) and A. abietinum f. sp. magnificae which only parasitizes red fir (Abies magnifica). Although field observations and cross-inoculation studies have consistently supported the extreme host specialization demonstrated by these special forms of fir dwarf mistletoe, little quantitative data from mixed red fir/white fir stands infested with fir dwarf mistletoe have been available. Therefore, I sampled 20 mixed conifer stands dominated by red and white fir and infested with f. sp. concoloris (8 stands) or f. sp. magnificae (12 stands) from near Mount Shasta to the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Sherman Pass. Infection of red and white fir was evaluated using temporary circular plots (0.012 ha) established around large, severely infected trees and with rectangular transects placed within fir dwarf mistletoe-infested stands. In each plot and transect, live trees >5 cm in diameter at breast height were assigned a dwarf mistletoe rating (6-class system). A total of 55 plots and 51 transects were established in the 20 stands, and over 1,900 red firs and 1,700 white firs were sampled. Ninety-nine per cent of the red firs and 98% of the white firs were infected in stands infested with f. sp. magnificae or f. sp. concoloris, respectively. In contrast, no infection of red fir was observed in stands infested with f. sp. concoloris and no infected white firs were observed in stands infested with f. sp. magnificae. These data provide further support that the special forms of fir dwarf mistletoe are extremely host specific in California.
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