Friday, April 30, 2010

I Like Galls

I enjoy tree galls.  Maybe it is their diversity of colors and shapes.  Maybe it is the mysterious way an insect's egg makes the tree produce the foreign nutrients and structures necessary to sustain their larva.
Frankly, I think part of it is their names.  I can't remember wildflower names, especially when there are multiple flowers with the same common name.  For instance, there are many plants called White Snakeroot.  This might seem to be a small annoyance, but not if it is White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima).   Drinking milk or eating meat from a cow which has been eating it can cause Milk Sickness, described in Wikipedia as the cause of Abraham Lincoln's mother's death.  It would be important to differentiate it from Snakeroot, White, Eupatorium rugosum, which is also poisonous.
For this reason, we rely on Latin genus and species names to keep them straight.  My memory of a year of high school Latin is of a tiny elderly lady teacher who cried when she saw someone had penciled in crossed eyes on her marble bust of Julius Caesar.   I do recall "e pluribus unum" which I believe translates to "lets all have a beer."  I think that the yellow composites should be named Gollithayall lukalika
Galls, on the other hand, have names that a guy can love.  Oak apple gall.  Cherry leaf gall.  Oak stem gall.  Oak apple rust gall.  These are guy names- short, simple English, descriptive and you can move on to "How about them Cubs."  (Editor's note: The writer is being sexist, as happens sometimes.  Gals love these names too.)
The Cherry leaf gall pictured above is a beautiful bright addition to the leaves.  It is caused by a Eriophyidae gall mite.  The gall mites are microscopic creatures, looking like a worm with two pair of legs.  The effect on the tree is cosmetic.  None of us are likely to see a gall mite but their effects can be seen on a number of plants.  A coconut gall mite in the same species can destroy up to 90% of coconut production in infested areas.
To see a wide variety of galls, check out http://www.hainaultforest.co.uk/3Oak%20galls.htm

1 comment:

  1. Eupatorium rugosum is an old synonym of Ageratina altissima.

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