Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Oak gall

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Oak Gall Broken Open 2523

A gall is a growth that a plant produces in response to the sting or injection made by an insect or other invertebrate. The gall, which benefits its provoker by providing a place for its young to develop, usually doesn’t harm the plant. One of the most common galls I see in central Texas is the type shown here, which I photographed on Morado Circle on January 5th adjacent to the goldeneye you saw last time. Online sources lead me to think that the maker might well be an oak apple gall wasp, Amphibolips confluenta. The life cycle of that insect is fascinating, and I encourage you to read about it in an article posted on the website of the Island Creek Elementary School in Virginia. If you’d like more information, including a picture of the larva inside one of these galls, you can check out The Urban Pantheist.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 23, 2015 at 5:40 AM

31 Responses

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  1. Wow – this is really interesting – I’ve never heard of this before


    January 23, 2015 at 5:49 AM

    • I don’t think I had either until I got interested in native plants in 1999. So much to learn….

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2015 at 6:37 AM

  2. It seems it is not galling at all for oaks to have galls.


    January 23, 2015 at 6:42 AM

  3. I’m nursing a small oak at the edge of the woods so it grows big. It has several places with small marble sized galls. Each one has a tiny hole where something emerged. No harm seems to come from them.

    Jim in IA

    January 23, 2015 at 7:31 AM

    • Indeed, no harm seems to come to the tree. Another name for this kind of gall is oak apple, and that makes me wonder if any harm would come to a person who ate one, with or without its insect dweller.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2015 at 7:52 AM

  4. I’ve never seen a gall like this. The ones on our live oaks are smaller, like Jim’s marble-sized, and smooth. The linked article was interesting, especially the fact that the galls don’t hurt the trees and the wasps don’t hurt humans. The inside’s interesting, too. At first glance, I thought I was looking at the underside of a mushroom and its gills.


    January 23, 2015 at 12:21 PM

  5. Galls are pretty cool structures. My favorite is the Wool Sower gall which is white and fluffy with red tipped fibers. I’ve never posted a shot of it, but maybe I will soon to share it. They are pretty cool.
    Here’s a sample…not mine.

    Steve Gingold

    January 23, 2015 at 1:53 PM

  6. Galls are quite common to see in our Australian bushland and often look quite ugly, although very interesting! The colours and textures in your composition are beautiful though, Steve. You make galls quite attractive!


    January 24, 2015 at 12:26 AM

    • I’m glad to hear you don’t find this gall’s appearance galling, Jane. Two of my goals are to be visually transformative and scientifically informative. The fact that this gall had such a large opening let me record (and therefore also reveal) something I haven’t normally gotten to see in galls. Your statement that galls are quite common in Australian bushland makes me wonder if their frequency of occurrence in regions of similar climate around the world is roughly constant.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2015 at 2:35 AM

  7. […] Schwartzman brought up the subject of galls in his recent blog post of an Oak Gall.  Most often they are just a plain lump or roundish growth found on a leaf or stem.  Many species […]

  8. I didn’t know insects caused galls, and very glad to know galls usually don’t harm the plant. I have long wondered about that.

    Susan Scheid

    January 24, 2015 at 8:57 PM

  9. Nature never fails to amaze. Here is another other-worldly looking creation. Great detail!


    January 24, 2015 at 9:23 PM

    • Like a creature from another planet, except it’s our planet, and we have our own aliens.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 25, 2015 at 12:06 AM

      • Absolutely, I’m glad you said that. Who needs other planets when we have plenty of weird, wacky, and “other worldly” stuff here?!

        Wake up and check out the world!! 😉


        January 25, 2015 at 9:11 PM

        • Your plea to “Wake up and check out the world!!” reminds me of the admonition to “Stop and smell the roses” (except on this blog I’d have to substitute a fragrant native wildflower).

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 26, 2015 at 6:55 AM

          • See I always have to look into the roses first because there’s bound to be some creature tucked away in there.


            January 26, 2015 at 7:22 PM

  10. […] common to see galls on oak trees, but many of the ones on this live oak (Quercus fusiformis) had sticky drops on their surface that […]

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