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.


Vince said...

Two acres of garden is a good sized one. But you could drive yourself nuts if you aren't careful.
Garden about 1/3 of an acre and allow the rest to become re-wilded, just sent mowed paths trough the wild.

Bone said...

I always wanted to have some fruit trees -- apple, plum, pecan. And of course, shade trees are an absolute must here in the South.

Ed said...

Vince - Heck a 1/3 of an acre garden is more than I need or want. I have thought about planting lilacs down near our perimeter of trees on the north side but back aways from them. Once the lilacs matured a bit, I would then let more land that is now open between them and the trees grow back up and increase the barrier between us and the road and neighbors.

Bones - Apples and plums grow pretty good up here but sadly not pecans. I have to go a good ways south to find some decent specimens of them. My favorite fruit tree of all though is the sour cherry and one must plant a lot of them to get enough to harvest because the birds love them a bit on the not quite ripe for me side.

Vince said...

It depends. If you want, draw a rough sketch, a scale and the N; and I'll send a few pointers your way. And if you could put it in a contour in the local landscape. There is nothing preventing you from expropriating good lines well outside your boundary. You mightn't have the Matterhorn or a Sugarloaf Mtn, but what you have are steep valleys with long views.

Lilacs have two problems. They flower on last years wood which makes any serious pruning problematic since you lose two years flower. You need to do it since very quickly only God and the birds see the full show. But the main issue is they are a remarkably bland shrub/tree when not in flower.

sage said...

Didn't know those were caused by a wasp, learn something new every day!

warren said...

My parents have lilac and they are great...they get pretty big and smell wonderful! I think it's a great idea!!

Ed said...

Vince - I do need to layout my future plans on paper sometime. I doubt that I get much landscaping done this year though because I'm still busy working on the house.

Sage - When that happens, I know it has been a good day.

Warren - I have fond memories of the lilacs at the old farm where I grew up. They smelled great, lasted a long time and needed absolutely no maintenance.

Anonymous said...

We've had a many black oaks succumb to the effects of the drought and a parasitic bore attack. The bores have been active for a few years but the drought really spurred on the die back. I've been replacing any trees we've cut with shortleaf and loblolly pine. Thankfully our property could use a thinning of the oaks. I use most to heat with and cut some for our shittake logs.

We do the big garden every year. Every year we say that we will downsize. Every year we plant more outside the fenced foot print of the too big garden. Maybe next year.