When someone says that “they’ve gotta lotta gall,” that usually means that the person they’re speaking of “has a lot of nerve” or is bitter or impudent. When you look in Webster, gall can be a green bile as in gall bladder and it can be a skin sore.
A gull, as in seagull, is a white and gray bird with webbed feet, living near the water. To gall is to trick or cheat. The gull may be the person duped.
Gaul is an ancient division of the Roman Empire in western Europe. Gaul was where modern day France is found on the map and Gallipolis means “City of the Gauls.”
With all that said, let’s get around to the “gall” of today’s article. We’re out here amongst ‘em in the Southern Ohio autumn and we’re scouting deer. As we look through the woods we see some trees bare at the end of October and some still show their fall color. Many red maple have come and gone, oaks are just starting to turn and hickory has blasted in gold.
In the trees, where leaves were on the branches, you now see some strange growths. As you walk through the weed fields in autumn, you see far fewer leaves and now you get a much better view of the weed stem. It’s now that on golden rod stems that are the diameter of a pencil and 2 -3 feet tall, you see a round, quarter-size growth on the stem. It’s plain to see that it’s not on the stem but rather a swelling of the stem from within.
In Webster’s Botanical Dictionary, he defines gall as a tumor on plant tissue caused by irritation due to fungi, insect, or bacteria. Obviously, when we use the word gall, it can sound the same but have many different meanings.
Galls form on both woody and herbaceous plants. You might see them on bushes such as blackberry, blueberry, and rose. Trees such as poplar, maple, basswood, aspen, willow, and most often oak, will be susceptible to gall. They are caused by insects that live on inside the gall through winter in the egg or larvae stage.
This whole gall-durned, gall scenario today was inspired by the golden rod gall which you can see so easily this time of year. This is a “ball gall” and it is a swelling of the stem. The golden rod gall moth lays eggs on the golden rod and when they hatch, the larvae dig into the stem in spring. It stays in the stem, eating through summer and as it matures into a moth and exits, it leaves the ball gall cavity in the stem. Spiders and wasps that parasited the larvae, may spend the winter in the ball gall, or other critters may move in, or it may just go vacant. Mother Nature comes and goes as she pleases.
It was the elliptical gall that the golden rod moth causes. Galls come in many forms and shapes. Two others are ball and bunch.
The gall fly lays eggs on the golden rod and they form the ball gall in June. They spend the winter in the gall. The black-capped chickadee and the downy woodpecker appreciate this as a winter lunchbox.
The bunch gall isn’t a round ball on the stem but rather a tangled, raveled mess on the top end of the golden rod stem and found only on the Canada Golden rod. These are caused by midges. There’s a single larvae or whoever comes along found in the bunch gall.
The gold of golden rod in September is gone, but the legacy lives on in the gall – durned stems. May the forest be with you.
Dudley Wooten is the owner/operator of Wooten’s Landscaping and Nursery and can be contacted at 740-820-8210.