Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Gouty Oak Twig Gall
One of the reasons we liked the house that we moved to last summer was because it sat on two acres of land with lots of trees. Unfortunately, we had many really wet years in a row followed by a very prolonged and intense drought. As a result, the trees in the area have been heavily stressed to the point it is really taken a toll. Last summer after we moved in and I had a chance to look around, I noticed a number of trees that were dead and last fall I cut them all down, all sixteen of them. Since then, I had four others too close to the house for me to safely remove also cut down.
Although there are still lots of trees remaining on the property, many of the ones are trees that are not very good specimens. Because they were not cared for and selectively harvested, many of the ones that remain are spindly trees with lots of crooks and weak spots along the main trunks. Others are just trees that are mature to the point that they are literally on the remaining years of their life. Sadly, a few of the better specimens of trees are losing patches of bark and I fear that when summer rolls around, I am going to find yet more dead trees that I need to remove.
Most of our trees are in the back and side yards of the house and the front yard only contains one tree, a fairly solid looking oak tree that is very scraggly in the bottom reaches of it. For some reason, I never thought to ID the oak to see what type it is but I'm fairly certain that it isn't among the black or red oaks that I am familiar with and grow abundantly around here. When it leafs out this spring, I will classify it further.
Because it is kind of scraggly and has lots of dead undergrowth in the bottom part of the tree, there were lots of debris on the ground and on a warm day last week, I decided I would rake it up in-between sessions of teaching my daughter how to ride a bike without training wheels. While raking, I found all kind of woody 'balls' about the size of large golf balls littering the ground. Finally I had the idea to look up now that the leaves on the tree have mostly been blown off and saw that the balls were scattered throughout the tree. I had no idea what they were.
I picked one up and it is what you see in the picture up top. After doing some research, I have tentatively identified it as Gouty Oak Twig Gall. It is the home of a wasp and if found in significant quantities, can kill the tree. Most of the pictures that I have seen of trees labeled as 'infested' show clusters of these galls on branches causing them to droop down. Fortunately, my tree only has then dotted throughout the structure like nuts on a walnut tree late in winter. The only way to save the tree is to cut the growths out when they are just starting to develop and prevent full blown infestation or throw chemicals out it during very specific stages of insect development. Neither are very practical on a tree that is 50 or 60 feet tall.
So I guess it is wait and see on the oak tree. As for the rest, I need to start selecting some better specimens of trees and planting them in my now thinning woods and return them to their once glorious state. Top on my list are some trees for an orchard which I have always wanted. I would like to plant a few pin oak trees which have got to be one of my favorites as far as shade, sturdiness and lack of maintenance in the spring such as picking up sticks. Also on my list though not a tree is that I have a hankering for planting some lilac bushes like what my parents had at the old farm when I was growing up. Those things always smelled so good in spring.