August 29, 2010

Well, "GALL"-Y!

Remember Gomer Pile? He used to use the expression, "Well, GAAAAALLY".. This post has nothing to do with 1960's sitcoms or Jim Neighbors; but it does have to do with "Galls". You may be asking, “And what on earth are “Galls”? You wouldn’t be alone in your inquiry.

I can't help but to conclude that few people know what a gall is. After all, I have lived almost 50 years without knowing what a "gall" is and yet there are tens of thousands of galls and they are all around us.

It all started with the "oak balls" or "oak apples" . There were thousands of them hanging on the branches of the oak trees in the Secret Garden. There were big ones and little ones; dark brown ones and light yellow ones; round ones and kidney bean shaped ones. We discovered these during our first week at the apartment. I had seen oak balls throughout my life, but never really knew what they were. My aunt actually incorporated a few of them in the wreaths he would make during the Christmas holiday. She would make wreaths from different varieties of pine cones and acorns that she had gathered throughout the year and give them as gifts to family member and friends. The one she gave Grandpa and Grandma had an oak ball glued in among the other varnished items.
























Michael and I decided to take one of the oak apples, that had fallen to the ground, back to our apartment. The idea was to cut it open. We had no idea what we might find. Had I known what we would discover, I probably would have rather cut it open outside on the porch than on the kitchen counter. eeeeeuuuuuuuu!

In addition, had my aunt known what was inside that oak ball, I have a feeling, she may have decided that it was not a good choice for a Christmas wreath. Yes, that little white think in the middle of the oak gall, is a living larvae.

The oak ball discovery was just the beginning. After researching oak balls "Galls" we felt very educated. This education came early on in the Secret Garden. It did not, however, prepare us for what we would discover months later.

Just recently, during one of our evening walks in the garden, Michael stopped near an old Blue Oak and exclaimed, "Wow, what on earth are these?" I hurried over to see the most beautiful and unusual little pink crowns growing on the underneath of a blue oak leaf.



We took the leaf home, took pictures, and placed it in a jar. I tried to find something similar on the internet; but could find nothing. So, I decided to send a picture to the Botanical Society of America asking them what these beautiful things were.
Yes, you may have guessed, these were also a type of "gall". Here was the answer I received:
The structures on your oak leaves are Spined Turban Galls and are caused by a tiny, gnat-sized wasp, Antron douglasii . This is a gall we don’t see here in the Midwest, as it occurs primarily on Blue oaks (Quercus douglasii) in California. As far as the tree is concerned, the galls are harmless. I agree they are beautiful, but I only know this gall from pictures. It’s a great find on your part.


You can find additional information about this curious insect by Googling “Antron douglasii”. Click on Google Images to see more pictures.


There is a Bay Area resident and naturalist by the name of Ron Russo who has extensively studied plant galls and written the field guide “Plant Galls of California and Other Western States” (UC Press, 2007). You can also find several articles online that he has authored, including http://baynature.org/articles/jul-sep-2009/call-of-the-galls and http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/features/231962/confessions-of-a-gall-hunter
Here is the little wasp that will eventually crawl out of those pretty pink crowns.
How wonderful! We have since discovered numerous other types of galls in the Secret Garden. Next time you are out among trees, I might suggest you take a closer look. There is a banquet for the eyes out there of God's magnificent creation and yet so many of us our are starving simply because we do not open our eyes to the feast all around.
More to come....

1 comment:

sacra vim said...

We have seen galls here, too, but I didn't know what they were called. Thanks for the nature lesson!