At a scouting camp out Saturday, Dave Shanholtzer gave me this gall puzzle. It was a dried stem with tiny sharp thorns. Those thorns and its ribbed five-sided stem were typical of a blackberry cane but what was the gall?
|Blackberry knot gall - Natureblog.org|
|Blackberry knot gall - Nancy Kent|
Google "blackberry stem gall" and you get a wide variety of different shaped galls. A dedicated amateur gall hunter can search for a long time and find little information and then come on a treasure trove such as this natureblog.org posting on blackberry knot galls. It shows the entire life cycle, unusual in its completeness.
I found Dave's gall in a naturalist's bible, Eiseman's Tracks and Signs. It is a blackberry seed gall caused by a cynipid gall wasp Diastrophus cuscutae-formis. Unlike many of the lumpy distortions created by many gall makers, this one is a work of art when it is young. The Missouri Botanical Garden specimen to the right bears little resemblance to the gnarly gall in hand, once the tiny wasps leave home.
|Rope dodder fruit - Minnesota Wildflowers|
A while back, Brandon Butler of the Conservation Federation of Missouri** asked if I hunt. My first response was "No, I don't any more." Then I realized that I hunt every day, just different game. Some times we eat what I find (mushrooms) but more often it is for galls or "catch and release" insects to study. Now I am off to our blackberry patch to look for my own blackberry seed gall.
* Linnaeus and his classification system is discussed in this recent New York Times travel story.
** Join us at Explore the Outdoors Springfield with a sneak preview of the WOW museum on June 17th.