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Mistletoe Comics

Your task today, dear camper, is to create a comic strip! Our main character today is: DWARF MISTLETOE. Your comic strip should show all the key events in the life cycle of the dwarf mistletoe, growing in Ekone pines...


What you'll need for this activity: 

  • Drawing paper

  • Your favorite drawing utensils (colored pencils, markers, etc.)

  • The information below about the mistletoe life cycle 

  • Optional: encyclopedia or web search for more information

What is a comic strip?

A comic strip is a series of images, in boxes, that tell a story, in a sequence. They sometimes have words and sometimes are just pictures.

comic strip.jpg

Okay so how do I make one?

Below is a bunch of information about the mistletoe – what it is, how it reproduces, how it grows, etc. (I also describe it a lot in the video!) Your job is to take that regular science information, and turn it into art. Try to imagine each step along the way in the mistletoe’s life cycle… what would you need to show visually to explain that step? How many picture boxes will I need to show each step? Will one be enough? Or should I break it down into 2 or 3 images? Where do you want to start in the life cycle? You get to decide.

What If I don’t know how it looks in real life?

Make it up! What do you imagine when you hear the tale of the mistletoe life cycle? Parts can be any shape, color, size that you want! The idea is to explain the scientific process as an artist.

Okay so what the heck is Ponderosa pine mistletoe?

Mistletoe is a type of parasitic plant – and parasites are organisms that can only survive by attaching themselves to another living organism (a host), and feeding themselves *through* the host. Parasitic plants can't root straight into the earth. Parasitic plants are only one type of parasites; there are lots of different kinds of parasites!

Mistletoe that forms on Ponderosa pines is called Western Dwarf Mistletoe, and it can only infect pines, although it can get other types of pines besides Ponderosa as well. (Did you know there are *many* kinds of pines?!) It attaches itself to the pines by little root-like parts that enter through a branch, and gets its water and nutrients from the tree.

So in the photo, you can see what the mistletoe looks like once it has grown. It is usually somewhere in the range of olive green to rusty brown. It does not have leaves, but scales. And it can’t root into the soil, it needs a plant host!

Let’s explore its life cycle…


How does it get into the pines to begin with?

This mistletoe spreads by seeds. It makes small flowers in the fall and then spreads the seeds by EXPLODING! And the seeds can travel up to 10 meters, flying through the air! The seeds are covered in sticky goo that helps them stick to whatever they land on. If it lands on another pine tree (or on the same pine tree in a different spot!), it will start to grow in the spring.


How does it grow?

It starts by sending out a creeping little shoot (called a radicle) that creeps along until it finds the perfect place (usually at the base of a pine needle) where it pokes itself into the tree branch and starts growing little root-like bits inside the tree. From these root-like bits, it can suck out water and nutrients and grow and grow and grow until it creates flowers in the fall and explodes out more seeds.

Does it hurt the pine tree??

I meeeeaaaan…not really. On occasion, if tons and tons of it grow and grow and grow on all the trees in one area, then yes it can hurt those trees, by stopping the trees from getting enough water and nutrients for themselves by sucking it all out. But… that’s pretty rare. Usually, it just hangs out, sucks out a little extra from the pine tree, and the tree barely even notices.

mistletoe comic.JPG

Okay campers... ready, set, CREATE!

You can see the beginnings of how mine is starting out (above). Please feel free to be as creative and silly or as scientifically accurate as you like.

And please please PLEASE send us your comic strips!

We will post any that we get here on the page for inspiration for others.

Send in photos of your masterpieces to

Love this lesson?  We'd be grateful for your donation to help keep our staff on the hunt for more fun trails to follow with you!  Click Here to contribute, and thank you truly!

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