In plants, especially those that are woody, it is quite common for galls to form, which are like bumps or bumps with a rounded shape that are usually filled with pus or resin. But contrary to what it may seem, there are some that have edible uses: those of oaks.
But What exactly are oak galls and how are they formed?
What is a biosimilar
The galls, also known as lawyers or cecidia, are tumor-like structures that have been formed as a consequence of the presence of a parasite (be it viruses, bacteria, fungi, or insects) to which the plant, in this case the oak, struggles to keep it isolated from healthy tissue.
To make it easier to understand, it would be something like when, for example, a splinter gets stuck in us that we can’t extract. Our defense system is going to attack it, but over time it forms a more or less hard lump that usually hurts a bit. Well, the gills, instead of being filled with blood, are filled with pus or sometimes resin.
How are they formed?
On oaks, the galls are usually produced by an alternation of parasites. During the autumn, the asexual Dryophanta foli lays its eggs on the tender shoots and buds, which causes the defense system of the trees to develop galls in winter when trying to eliminate them. The next generation of D. foli will emerge between April and May.
As soon as the female of Dryophanta taschenbergii is fertilized, she will lay her eggs on the leaves of the Quercus, thus producing the summer galls that will be incubators of the asexual form.
How to prevent the oak from having them?
It is true that to see an oak plagued with those little balls, even when the leaves are falling off, is not pleasant to look at. In fact, many search the Internet or ask nurseries or specialists what can be done so that this type of tree does not generate them.
First of all, you must start from the basis that oak galls are not, in the vast majority of cases, bad. That is, they are not a symptom of oak weakness, disease or pest. It is true that, when it has a lot of galls, this can cause the leaves to fall off sooner, but in no way does it deteriorate its health.
Now, there is a way to eliminate them and it consists of cut them when they are still growing or fresh, taking into account that the larvae are still inside (and if you don’t want them to infect you, it’s better to burn them). That is to say, the preventive method goes through, as soon as these appear and the parasite is inside, cutting it (with a disinfected leaf) to prevent further dispersion. In this way, you will control the plague or the proliferation of these insects, which will reduce the appearance of the galls.
Really there is no other method to prevent an oak from developing galls except perhaps to protect it from these insects or parasites which are what cause this reaction in the trees. How do you get that? Covering the care and needs of the oak. Specifically, we talk about:
- Location. The oak must be in a humid climate, that is, it needs to be in a sunny place but also where the rain nourishes it. In fact, although it can cause the appearance of fungi, the oak is one of the trees that has created a symbiosis with them, in such a way that they can be present but not damage the tree and, in return, it better tolerates the dry season and the pests.
- Weather. Its ideal temperature would be between 18 and 20 degrees, but it is capable of tolerating down to -15 degrees. For it to develop well, the summer must be warm, although without reaching extreme temperatures, especially if it is not watered since it can suffer a lot.
- Land. This tree requires a substrate for acid plants, but in the case of gardens it adapts to more organic and nutritious soils. Of course, it is not recommended to have it in a pot because it needs a lot of space, and it would only survive the first few years, then it would have to be planted in the ground.
- Irrigation. It does not tolerate droughts, so it is important to water it often, without letting it get too wet or waterlogged (that would mean that the soil is too caked).
- Subscriber. It takes place in spring and summer, once a month. This is done mainly with manure or similar. Only when they are young specimens is the liquid or granular fertilizer used.
- Pruning. It is not a tree that needs pruning, except to clean it of dead, diseased or weak branches. Beyond that, you shouldn’t prune it. Now, here would come the case of the guts, where it would be necessary to intervene if you do not want it to have them.
- Multiplication. It is done through the seeds that the tree itself generates (through its fruits). Of course, unlike other seeds, which have to wait for them to dry, the same does not happen with oak. That is, they should be planted while fresh, if possible in their fixed place (where you do not have to transplant it). To help the seed, an incision is made in such a way that moisture can enter through it more easily and germinate earlier.
What uses do they have?
Oak galls, being rich in tannins, are used for dysentery, ulcers and hemorrhoids. as a tincture They are also good for diarrhoea, cholera and gonorrhea.
In nature, or in your garden if you have an oak tree, you will come across galls in many shapes, sizes and colors. Everything will depend on how they react to the wasp larvae. Therefore, another of the uses they have is defensive. The oaks themselves create them to defend themselves against these attacks and so that the “bugs” go to that area, leaving the rest of the tree alone.
The truth is that galls have many uses, not only medicinal, as we have mentioned, but also in everyday life. It highlights, for example, how the North American Indians used it to create a paste with them that they applied when there was burns, sores, or wounds; or for example in China, using it to treat ulcers and hemorrhoids as a hot and sour drink called moshizi.
However, you may not know that you can also use to tan. Just as it is an ingredient in dyes, it could easily be used on the skin to make it darker.
Lastly, in some tribes, oak galls are part of the decoration. For example, in ceramics, in basketry or even in leather, as necessary ingredients for these works.
More current is the use as a pesticide. In fact, according to researchers at the University of Mysore in India, it seems that some of the ingredients in the gills could repel certain insects, until now a species of mosquito. For now, not much more is known, but nature itself could offer us tools against pests and diseases of trees (and of human beings).
When to collect oak galls?
Oak gall is not always on the tree. Being bumps, there comes a time when they fall to the ground, either open or gnawed by the parasites that have been incubating inside, or completely, because it has not come to fruition.
Be that as it may, the best time to collect them is from autumn and winter. In these two seasons it is very common for them to fall from the trees and find them on the same ground.
At no time are they detrimental to the health of the oak, that is, they do not harm it nor are they a symptom or factor of disease, far from it. Also, just because he produces gills and they fall off doesn’t mean he won’t re-create them (or maybe not). Everything will depend on whether it is affected by parasites.
Where to buy?
In the past, finding oak galls was as easy as going to an oak grove (or oak forest) in autumn-winter and collecting those on the ground. Let them dry and use them.
Now this is not so easy, but at the same time more possibilities have opened up. You can not only find them in herbalists (normally in preparations, although some have dry galls, which are the ones used) but also in stores related to wool and fabricsfor its use as a dye.
Of course, the Internet is one of the best places to find online stores that sell them and send them to your home, at disparate but quite affordable prices. So you have where to choose to buy them.
Depending on the use you want to give it, we recommend that you go to one store or another. And it is that they can be presented in different ways: powdered, whole, dry, fresh (be careful with the larvae), etc. and each will have a price and a way to use it.
Have you heard of oak galls?