You’ve Got Some Gall!

My mother used to say that to me – a lot! Mind you, she was crippled up with arthritis so a bit of ‘Yah-Boo-Sucks!’ carried very little risk of retribution.


Back then I fancied myself one of the All Blacks doing their thing to intimidate and humiliate the ‘enemy’. My mother, on the other hand, considered me a little gob-shite with a lot of gall and a turn of speed she couldn’t match.

As you check out the crazed bunch of bone-heads depicted above, consider this should you think of taking a twenty three hour flight to visit the ‘Hobbiton’ set from ‘Lord Of The Rings – the bone-heads have sisters:


Anyway, this has nothing to do with what I thought I’d started with so it’s back to the mundane – ‘Galls’! Which is not, I venture to add, something a sane person would even consider muttering under their breath to these ladies.

Focus Alan! ‘Why galls?’ you might ask. And I would answer ‘Because galls are fascinating.’ Galls come in many shapes and sizes. They are mostly found on oaks and wild roses, they are mostly caused by varieties of little gall wasps of which there are around 1300 species world-wide with about 350 species in Europe and around 800 in North America.

Knopper Oak Gall Wasp
Knopper Oak Gall Wasp

What is amazing is that these tiny creatures will lay between a single egg and a small cluster in the joint between leaf and stem of the particular host that they have become genetically dependent upon. What happens next is still a mystery – either something is secreted with or on the egg which causes the plant to mutate and produce a growth. And here is what is even more amazing – every species of wasp causes a different type of growth or gall. Such is the difference that an expert can identify the species by the gall!

In the hedgerows surrounding our cabin garden there is a lot of scrub oak and to date I have found two different galls growing often on the same oak and even adjacent on the same twig.

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On the left is the Oak Marble Gall (often mistakenly called the Oak Apple Gall) and on the right is what appears to be a Rose Bedeguar Gall aka Robin’s Pincushion (named for Robin Goodfellow an English ‘Will-O-The-Wisp’ sprite) or Moss Gall which shouldn’t be on oak at all but wild roses. I won’t bore you with all the names of which wasp does what because if you are interested this stuff is readily available online. Suffice to say that the relationship between host and the interloper is symbiotic. The plant reacts to whatever enzyme/chemical is secreted and the grub feeds on the growth and not the body of the host. There appears to be no permanent damage to the host.

Below you can see the galls cut open to reveal the grub chamber. Under normal circumstances once the grub pupates and the wasp emerges it gnaws its way out of the gall and the cycle goes on.


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the pupating chamber of the ‘Robin’s Pincushion’
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and the grub
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the grub at the centre of the Oak Marble Gall

Don’t feel too badly about this couple of grubs sacrificed in the name of science/learning – galls are a ready source of nutritious snack for squirrels and martens. Speaking of which:

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This is one of the family of five that scamper about on the roof of our cabin at 6.30 in the morning.

So, there you have it. What the connection is between ‘gall’ and ‘gall’ I have no idea but that’s English for you! By way of compensation here’s what is arguably the greatest Haka ever by the All Blacks.

Alan – returned from the Land of the Undead!

8 thoughts on “You’ve Got Some Gall!

  1. Alan, That last post had us laughing for a good hour. We even saw a haka (which before, we didn’t even know what it was) performed on youTube by the Maoris. After that, it was hard to focus on the scientific information but we’re sure it was brilliant. xxoo M and J

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    1. The Maori Nation – another indigenous group who (just like the Apache Nation) have resurrected themselves from death by drugs, alcohol, indifference and unemployment/no purpose in life by investing in their language and culture. Today they are a vibrant people once again.


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