Biodiv Sci ›› 2020, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (7): 833-841.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2019350

Special Issue: 传粉生物学

• Reviews • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Overview of the reproductive phenology of mistletoes

Manru Li1,2, Ling Zhang1,*()   

  1. 1 CAS Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303
    2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049
  • Received:2019-11-06 Accepted:2020-01-25 Online:2020-07-20 Published:2020-09-29
  • Contact: Ling Zhang


Mistletoes are a polyphyletic group of hemi-parasitic shrubs that can conduct photosynthesis. As keystone resources, they provide important food resources and nest sites for many birds and other fauna in forests and woodlands, mediating local biodiversity. This group is comprised of 5 families, 88 genera and about 1,600 species within the Santalales and is broadly distributed across terrestrial ecosystems, absent only in some alpine, desert and polar areas. Research into the reproductive phenology of mistletoes is important for understanding the maintenance of species interaction networks in “host-mistletoe-pollinator/seed disperser” systems and the stability of ecosystem structure. We review the reproductive phenology of mistletoes at landscape, community, and population scales. We begin by describing different forms of mistletoe reproductive phenology, and continue by exploring the evolutionary and developmental drivers of host species, pollinator/seed disperser, and mistletoe biological characteristics. These studies indicate that long-lasting mutualisms between pollinators/seed dispersers and mistletoes are maintained mainly by asynchronous phenology of mistletoes in order to ensure their reproductive success. Previous studies found that the reproductive phenology of mistletoes had important adaptive significance to interacting species in “host-mistletoe-pollinator/seed disperser” systems. Future efforts should first prioritize basic biological research on mistletoes to fill important data gaps, and then couple experimental verification with comprehensive multi-factor analysis to strengthen our understanding of the ecological significance of mistletoe reproductive phenology.

Key words: mistletoes, reproductive phenology, host plants, pollinator, seed disperser