Bug Art on The Barrens

Bug Art on the Barrens

As I wander around the Barrens, NBWA, each year I often noticed those ‘pine cone’ like things on the willow plants.  Indeed some plants have many of them on the upper stems!  And the plant doesn’t seem to be affected by them.  Then I look a little closer and I see these often red / green swellings on the willow stems and even on the leaves I will see these strange shapes growing within the leaf! 

Well the experts call them ‘Willow Roses’ or ‘Stem Galls’ or ‘Leaf Galls’

But mainly I see these odd plant growths on the Willows!  Why the willows.  Of course they are ‘kind of cute’, thus I call them Bug Art!

So these galls are formed by worms that hatch from eggs laid by Saw Flies, midges, which are tiny mosquito like flies that often fly in swarms.  The eggs hatch into worms and the interaction of the plant and the worm creates these sometimes rather elaborate ‘galls’ on their host willow plant.  They grow in such a way that it appears the plant and worm ‘work together’. 

Well this is another rather amazing part of the Barrens.

Remember get out of your car and walk around and look closely for your next surprise.

Mark Nupen   marknupen@gmail.com

Manipulation of the phenolic chemistry of willows by gall-inducing sawflies  by Tommi Nyman and Riita Julkunen-Tiitto   www.pnas.org  PNAS   Nov. 21, 2000


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