A gallery of galls, the strange holes and growths on plants caused by parasites

Different species' galls are highly distinctive, often providing protection or nourishment for the creature growing within. Some are even useful to us; ink was traditionally made with tannic acid gleaned from oak galls. Enjoy this gallery of growths, blisters and curious protrusions from the plant kingdom.

Cecedia, better known as galls, grow on plants infected with bacteria, parasites or insect eggs. Different species' galls are highly distinctive, often providing protection or nourishment for the creature growing within. Though frequently undesirable, they've also been useful to humans, over the years: ink is traditionally made using tannic acid from oak galls.

The long-abandoned gall pictured above, photographed by nutmeg66 in Theddlethorpe St. Helen, England, shows the exit routes of whatever creatures it nurtured.


Photographer Kim Fleming spotted this evacuated wasp gall in 2006.


Neuroterus numismalis galls on a leaf, shot by Mick E. Talbot of Lincoln, U.K.


Flickr's tiny_packages writes: "We found a lot of these weird-looking things just up the track from the house ... all different alien shapes and colours, slightly sticky, and if you break them open, you can find the acorn inside."
This gall, spotted by Johann Dréo, hangs from the branch of an oak tree in Chamadelle, France.


Galls take many odd shapes and sizes.


A Knopper gall envelops an acorn in this picture by Colin Jacobs. Be sure to see his full collection.


Silk Button Spangle Galls on English Oak, caused by the gall wasp Neuroterus numismalis. Uploaded to flickr with the understated title "Too many galls", anemoneprojectors's photo was featured here at BB early last year. "Here were so many galls on this tree that I actually felt sick," anemoneprojectors wrote. "But not too sick to take a photo!"


Seen in another photo from Mick E. Talbot, these galls were caused by the Willow Redgall Sawfly, which lays eggs in neat rows. Its galls are said to be "extremely unsightly"


The galls covering this poison ivy leaf were caused by the Aculops mite. The holes indicate galls on the other side of the leaf, reports photographer Martin LaBar.

There are hundreds of other photos of similar infestations on flickr; check out the cecidology pool to start.

Cecedia, better known as galls, grow on plants infected with bacteria, parasites or insect eggs. Different species' galls are highly distinctive, often providing protection or nourishment for the creature growing within. Though frequently undesirable, they've also been useful to humans, over the years: ink is traditionally made using tannic acid from oak galls.

The long-abandoned gall pictured above, photographed by nutmeg66 in Theddlethorpe St. Helen, England, shows the exit routes of whatever creatures it nurtured.


Photographer Kim Fleming spotted this evacuated wasp gall in 2006.


Neuroterus numismalis galls on a leaf, shot by Mick E. Talbot of Lincoln, U.K.


Flickr's tiny_packages writes: "We found a lot of these weird-looking things just up the track from the house ... all different alien shapes and colours, slightly sticky, and if you break them open, you can find the acorn inside."
This gall, spotted by Johann Dréo, hangs from the branch of an oak tree in Chamadelle, France.


Galls take many odd shapes and sizes.


A Knopper gall envelops an acorn in this picture by Colin Jacobs. Be sure to see his full collection.


Silk Button Spangle Galls on English Oak, caused by the gall wasp Neuroterus numismalis. Uploaded to flickr with the understated title "Too many galls", anemoneprojectors's photo was featured here at BB early last year. "Here were so many galls on this tree that I actually felt sick," anemoneprojectors wrote. "But not too sick to take a photo!"


Seen in another photo from Mick E. Talbot, these galls were caused by the Willow Redgall Sawfly, which lays eggs in neat rows. Its galls are said to be "extremely unsightly"


The galls covering this poison ivy leaf were caused by the Aculops mite. The holes indicate galls on the other side of the leaf, reports photographer Martin LaBar.

There are hundreds of other photos of similar infestations on flickr; check out the cecidology pool to start.

Published 6:56 pm Thu, Jun 2, 2011

About the Author

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at besc...@gmail.com

 

28 Responses to “A gallery of galls, the strange holes and growths on plants caused by parasites”

  1. Antinous / Moderator says:

    I don’t really get why anybody would be grossed out by these. The natural world is largely composed of ulcers on top of scabs on top of tumors. But then, I grew up catching leeches for bait and having contests to see whose tick got the fattest.

    • Jake0748 says:

      YOU? You’re putting yourself out there as some kind of example of normalcy? Pu-leeeze.

      :D

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        I had a rather atavistic upbringing.

        • Jake0748 says:

          Fair enough, Anti. It just made me lol thinking about someone who carries around pepper spray (or whatever it was) in their fishnets.

        • Anonymous says:

          “I don’t really get why anybody would be grossed out by these. The natural world is largely composed of ulcers on top of scabs on top of tumors.”

          That’s part of the problem. I can imagine these things growing on my skin. I wish my mind was more boring :)

    • Quiet Wyatt says:

      Antinous, think Cronenberg.

      Imagine pulling those bait leeches out from your face, where (unknown to you) they’d been beautifully gestating, and are now waving “hello!” to you in the mirror.

      Sorry, everyone. I have no chaser. But imagine! Rainbows, kittens, puppies, unicorns, babies that never cry and always sleep 8 hours every night…

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Imagine pulling those bait leeches out from your face, where (unknown to you) they’d been beautifully gestating, and are now waving “hello!” to you in the mirror.

        When I worked in the hospital, I helped a resident put leeches on someone’s face once, because the nurse that tried to assist passed out. Although that may have had more to do with the pseudomonas smell in the room and the guy not really having much face left.

        The doctor, who was one of the jolliest people that I’ve ever met, just kept laughing, “Ha! Ha! Ha! We’re going to put the bloodsuckers on your face now, Mr. Smith! Ha! Ha! Ha!”

    • cousin229 says:

      My Father was a Agronomist and he showed me some of the galls that are on the photos, I was fascinated and curious to see who was inside … we did open a few and inspected them with a magnifying glass…
      Thank you for bringing back those lovely memories to me!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Add a little CGI and you’ve got this awesomely weird video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VkMHsN8SoI

  3. querent says:

    Man, I thought the post name was pics of GALS. This is a far, distant cry from cute female humans.

    Pretty cool though. I see these all the time here in the Oregon woods. And saw em all the time in the woods back in Mississippi.

    Night kids.

  4. eosha says:

    For whatever reason, I find many of these photos viscerally unpleasant (though admittedly beautiful). I feel queasy looking at some of them. And I normally have a very strong stomach. But there’s something so intensely biological about these photos…

    • Magee says:

      I agree, for some reason they make me feel uncomfortably itchy.

      And it irritates me that my reaction is completely irrational.

      • Anonymous says:

        Magee, that’s exactly the reaction described by someone with Trypophobia (a fear of groupings of holes). Itchy and uncomfortable. My daughter has always had that feeling when looking at things like honeycombs but we only recently found out there’s a name for it. Some of these photos would totally freak her out.

    • Anonymous says:

      You may have Trypophobia.

      • benher says:

        I nearly went catatonic when I looked at those photos – I wanted to tear my brain out through my face with my bear hands and stomp on it.

        Maybe I have that Trypo-whatsits too.

    • robofunk says:

      Sounds like Trypophobia.

    • Quiet Wyatt says:

      I’m not ashamed to admit that I feel the same way. I can stomach the grossest of the gross images in horror movies, yet actual natural phenomena like these make my skin crawl (obviously it’s because I know they’re not “special effects”). Nature is amazingly disgusting sometimes.

      Between this and the next post (plasticized dude holding a cellphone), you’re really trying to give us all nightmares tonight, eh, BB?

      • Jake0748 says:

        Yes Wyatt, just looking at the scary posts over the last few days, I’d say BB owes us a whole BUNCH of unicorns and LOLCats. :)

  5. irksome says:

    Methinks the second one down is a goiter.

  6. Mister44 says:

    Neat.

    I have this stick that for what ever reason found itself into my garage. It MIGHT be the stem of a yucca plant, but I am not 100%. The other day I see about 25 skin casings of something that crawled out of it and left. I dunno if it was a moth or a caterpillar. There was one body that looked sorta like a moth – hard to tell. I see some white circles that were flaps over the holes they broke out of. Some of them are still sealed!

    Anyway – any clue wtf they are?

    Mother Nature – you are a scary bitch sometimes.

    • cousin229 says:

      Hello I am not sure what is it that came out from your stick, but a while ago, of one short piece of a tree branch that I found lying on the forest floor came out quite a number of Mason Bees that are beneficial to pollinate fruit trees, if you see plugs that are made out of mud just wait for them to emerge, there are videos on youtube about the life and importance of Solitary Bees and of Mason Bees and how to help them survive because they are responsible for lots of the fruit and vegetables that they help pollinate.

  7. A. B. Itch says:

    You people are weenies (I say that with greatest affection).

  8. avraamov says:

    strangley, one of the foremost experts of his era on gall wasps was alfred kinsey.

  9. avraamov says:

    strangely, i spelt strangley wrognly.

  10. Anonymous says:

    reminds me of this video
    1st Avenue Machine: Sixes Last
    http://www.vimeo.com/11931605

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for putting a spotlight on this amazing collection of images!

  12. Jake0748 says:

    This whole post, really galls me. :)

    Seriously though, when I was a kid stomping around in the woods (back when there were woods), I used to see these things all the time. Fascinating.

  13. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Here’s a nice one from the creosote gall midge.

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