BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘gall’

#365daysofbiking Sick more?

September 5th – Whilst I obsess over galls on oaks and wild roses, other shrubs and trees have their own problems. Here on Clayhanger Common, this sycamore tree is affected by sycamore mites and tar spot fungus.

The curious leaf growths form on the leaf like a gall from the point at which mites feed on the leaf by the same mechanism that other gall insects imply – in the case of these tiny mites, their saliva corrupts the lead cell DNA to grow into a gall.

On the underside of the leaf, a tiny, fur lined aperture into the gall is used by the mite after it has grown to lay its eggs, and the gall is eaten by the hatchling.

This leaf also has tar spot fungus.

Neither harm the host tree to any extent.

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#365daysofbiking Interdependence


September 2nd – The Darlaston Robins Pincushion Galls are looking really amazing right now – the one on the main ‘trunk’ (stalk? Branch?) of the wild rose is the largest I’ve ever seen, and still growing – now the size of a tennis ball, but elongated. On the outer leaves, the one that clearly misfired across multiple leaf nodes is causing odd, isolated patches of gall growth on leaves and twigs that look almost tumourous in nature.

This is an absolutely fascinating thing and I make no apologies for regularly featuring it. This is part of the wasp gall’s lifecycle and it’s absolutely stunning that such a tiny insect should co-opt and corrupt the growth of a plant to create such a host for its larva.

Amazing stuff.

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#365daysofbiking Corruption

August 21st – My goodness, this is strange.

Y’all know I love and am fascinated by insect galls, right? Well the robins pincushion galls on the wild rose I’ve been watching grow for weeks just took an odd turn.

There are several galls on the same rose now, the only plant in the thicket to be affected. Most of the galls are large, colourful and dramatic. But one weedy little on at the end of a twig seems to have got into a bit of a mess.

The photo isn’t great, but one can see that corruption from the implanted wasp egg has not been concentrated in one leaf node; it’s spread to several and there are bright red patches of furry spines all over the adjacent leaves.

Wonder what went wrong there?

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#365daysofbiking A good crop

August 17th – With my fascination with galls, it’s easy to overlook the fruiting of the oaks as it should be, and I’m happy to report this year that the crop of acorns – even though it’s been hit very heavily by knopper gall wasps – is plump and profuse.

The heathy acorns I’ll later gather to spread in hedgerows and on edge lands as is my tradition look better this year than they have for years. I guess a warm but wet season was good for them, if not so much for me.

I always have a dilemma here though: I can collect acorns solely from trees unaffected by knoppers, and assume they have so resistance, but in spreading solely those am I harming the wasp ecology? I suppose I should just spread any acorns I find, but it’s an interesting conundrum…

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#365daysofbiking And then, there were three

July 29th -An old boss used to get really annoyed with me if I came in after a wet weekend moaning that the following Monday morning weather was sunny, because I was stuck at work.

He’d point out I’d be even more miserable had the commute been wet and cold.

He was right.

I noted that the robins pincushion galls I’d found a couple of weeks ago had expanded in number to three, and that they were growing well, showing lovely colours in the strong morning sun.

I felt sad I was indoors for most of the day. But old John was right, it was a whole bunch better than had today been like Sunday.

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#365daysofbiking From little acorns

July 15th – More galls: I mentioned knopper galls recently and pointed out these wasp galls deform acorn buds to form a home for the wasp larva within. I found an illustration of this in Victoria Park Darlaston.

This is a knapper gall starting to form. The acorn cap is normal, but where the smooth, rounded nascent acorn should be, there is a knobbly, textured growth which will expand to form the gall.

The DNA of the acorn has literally been corrupted or reformed to grow a home for the wasp egg within by a chemical the egg was coated with.

How does such a mechanism evolve? It’s truly wonderful.

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#365daysofbiking The cycle


July 9th – I’m always interested in insect galls as regular readers will know and one of the most interesting in the UK is the robins pincushion gall, which affects wild and dog roses.

Forming the same way as oak galls – from a wasp injecting eggs into a plant bud which are coated in a plant DNA corrupting substance – pincushion galls are brightly coloured and made up of a solid nodule up to a inch or so diameter, covered in hairy spines, which if you look closely are miniature facsimiles of rose stalks, thorns and all.

Numerous larvae hatch in chambers within the gall, eating their way out as they mature.

This year on a rose where last year’s dead remains of a pincushion gall can be seen complete with cavities where the wasps emerged, there are two new ones growing about 12 inches further up the branch.

And so the lifecycle of a tiny but fascinating insect continues.

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#365daysofbiking Flown

July 8th – The galls that formed on the oak trees in spring that looked like rosy apples have now served their purpose and are dead, their bodies spongy and containing many holes where the wasps that grew from larvae within ate their way out to freedom and maturity.

Galls fascinate me: Corruptions of the tree’s buds by a parasitic, tiny wasp, they grow as host to the wasp’s offspring and take many forms.

These expired galls signal the passing of the season and soon we’ll start seeing knapper and artichoke galls which form on acorn buts, but have the same genesis.

Parasites are fascinating.

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#365daysofbiking From mighty oaks

May 3rd – It’s always interesting to watch the variety and spread of oak galls on the trees I pass.

At the moment, rosy red oak apples are developing well, corrupted from leaf buds by the tiny wasp who laid her egg in the bud. Her larvae will hatch inside, done on the inside of the gall and drill their way out when mature.

Fascinating things that don’t harm the tree and continue a millennia old relationship between oak and parasite.

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#365daysofbiking Galling:

October 17th – I’ve been casually interested into the decomposition of the robin’s pincushion gall I found in the summer in Darlaston.

This once beautiful red and green hairy, spiny gall – created by a tiny wasp laying it’s DNA corrupting eggs in the rose leaf buds of it’s host – is now decaying fast and I’m interested to see how this ball of plant matter wastes away, and if it shows any evidence of the adult gall wasps escaping to freedom.

I’ll never stop being fascinated by these things.