Female plant of A. vaginatum
on Ponderosa pine.
They are dioecious, individual plants being either male or female. The fruit is unusual in that it builds up hydrostatic pressure internally when ripe and shoots the single sticky seed up to speeds nearly 50 miles per hour (80 km/h), an example of rapid plant movement. The lodgepole pine dwarf mistletoe, Arceuthobium americanum, has been found to explosively-disperse its seeds through thermogenesis. Dwarf mistletoe seeds are enveloped in a hygroscopic, glue-like substance called viscin. Many fail to land on a suitable host's shoot, but some succeed, and in this way they are spread through the forests as a pest front. The spread of dwarf mistletoes in forest stands is greatest from the overstory to the understory, due to gravity. Advantageous stand conditions for the spread of dwarf mistletoes include an uneven-aged stand structure with severely infected hosts in dominant and codominant crown classes, species composition dominated by the primary host, and tree densities that are between 175 - 500 trees/ha.
There are also a number of species from Europe and Asia including one of the smallest in the genus, A. minutissimum that lives on its host, Pinus wallichiana in the Himalaya.