What is it?

As I was inspecting the edge of my garden, I noticed something hanging from the tip of a red oak leaf. I had never seen anything like it before. What is it?


I entered a simple internet search, “what is a green ball hanging from an oak leaf,” and was rewarded with a host of answers. What I had seen is a gall, produced during the life cycle process of the Oak Apple Gall Wasp (Amphibolips confluenta). I have seen galls on other oaks in the woods, but they were much smaller and harder than this soft, golf ball sized growth. This one has grown rather quickly; the oak only leafed out about three weeks ago.

In the interest of science I cut the gall in half to see what was inside. The developing larva can be seen at right. I elected not to dig further.

DSCN2244 DSCN2245

Numerous sources described the life cycle of the Oak Apple Gall Wasp and confirmed this identity. There is no reported evidence that it is harmful to its oak host. It serves as a food source for birds, most notably Downy Woodpeckers and Carolina Chickadees, both of which we have in abundance flitting about our garden.

And so I have learned something new. The garden once again has proved itself to be a wonderful learning laboratory (backed of course by an internet search engine).

About johnvic8

John Viccellio retired after 24 years in the U. S. Navy and began to dig into gardening when he could finally land in one place. He completed the Master Gardener course in 1992 and has since designed and constructed two of his own gardens. He wrote a monthly garden column for ten years and was a regular contributor to Carolina Gardener magazine. John published his first book, Guess What's in My Garden!, in 2014. He lives in a retirement community in Matthews, NC.
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16 Responses to What is it?

  1. Julie says:

    I have seen lots of the hard brown oak galls with holes showing the wasps have moved on but have never noticed these galls in their infancy, very interesting John.


  2. What a great find. I love little tid-bits like this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Klarinet says:

    Garden and Nature-are great Masters. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cathy says:

    I felt quite proud that I knew it was a gall … but then I looked again and thought: that’s huge! What an interesting post John, and a beautiful picture of the ‘inner workings’.


  5. Pauline says:

    So interesting to see it at an early stage, I’ve only ever seen them when they are hard and brown.


  6. Very interesting this one, I’ve never seen one either. We are always inspecting galls around here, on goldenrod and small willows, but have not come across one like this. Insects are amazing too! Great photos!


  7. johnvic8 says:

    Thank you. I hope I never stop wanting to learn something from those little critters.


  8. Interesting! I have never seen a gall like that on an oak or anything else.


  9. Ryan says:

    Just found one of my red oaks loaded with these. Internet search brought me here. My tree has maybe been leafed for a month and they look the same as yours


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