I cannot believe that it has been over a month since I posted anything on campus galls here. It has not been entirely due to slacking, rather in the past month I have been gathering gall data and images from campus which I will share with you soon: there’s plenty of galls out there. Indeed, as you go through September, and now into October you become conscious of the coming end of the gall season on deciduous plants, and that there are several races on – one for the leaf gall-makers to complete development before their leaf dies, and one for the observer to collect info before all the leaves fall, the weather becomes horrid and the winter darkness descends.
Another reason for lack of posts is that the new gall book has come out and I have to get to grips with it. I mentioned that we have been expecting an update of Redfern et al. (2002), which has been the standard UK work on galls and is now out of print, and I was surprised, and delighted, in September to see that it had been published by the Field Studies Council, and is available here. The FSC are to be congratulated on making this 400+ page book available at the very reasonable price of £28, and its publication will surely help further increase interest in plant galls. Needless to say it is now the standard work on galls and their formers in the UK.
The book has the same format as before, with keys laid out per plant genus, and good black and white drawings of the galls and key characteristics. A quick look shows how much has changed since 2002: we have several newly-found galling species in the UK (and some are on campus!), and the identity of some other gallers has been clarified. There has also been some changes in the Latin names of the established species (As soon as I can I will go through the posts already here and update names etc. from the new book). It is very much an identification key, and so for gall biology and life history you need to go to the other sources I mentioned in the first post (I do think they could have included a little more on galler biology and phenology, especially for the alternating generation gall wasps).
Also, it only has the 8 colour plates from the previous edition, and so one does need to look elsewhere for photos of the galls (it is a great shame that Roger Phillips never produced a colour photo guide to plant galls, as he did for many organisms), and I usually google the Latin name of a new gall I find to see what info is out there. When I do this, I often get results from two sites, which you might also find helpful. One is the Dutch plant gall website ‘plantengallen’ and the other is the Hainault Forest website, which has a very good gall page. This latter website, is also, I think a good example of a site-specific natural history website presenting a great deal of interesting information.
Finally, when carrying out field work in a public place one has to develop a pretty thick skin, and also learn to tell helpful/interested/piss-taking/threatening/insane comments apart, and to react approriately – as to many people anyone outside who is doing anything other than playing with their mobile phone or fondle-slab is clearly a deviant, and probably up to no good. Whilst looking at willows yesterday along the lakeside I heard in a west-country accent ‘are they good leaves?’ from a passing lad, clearing implying that I was intending to eat them. To which the only appropriate reply, in my broadest aaampshire, was ‘aaaarrrr, they’m graand leeves moi boi’. And indeed they were, with several gallers present.