Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - March 20, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Leaf Galls on Live Oak
Answered by: Becky Ruppel

QUESTION:

Hi - I have a live oak tree that always seems to have thinner foliage than our other two. Upon closer examination today I found small brown balls all over the mature leaves. The balls look and feel very much like peppercorns. What is this, and is this a danger to the tree? I did read the other post about Woody oak twig galls but based on that post I don't think that is what is going on here. Thank you for your time.

ANSWER:

The tree in question sounds like it has leaf galls formed by the Mealy Oak Gall Wasp Disholcaspis cinerosa.  This wasp forms both stem and leaf galls depending on the stage in its life-cycle.  Galls are formed when an insect (in this case a type of tiny wasp) lays an egg just under the surface of a stem or leaf.  A gall is formed because the tree is stimulated by the presence of the egg, and eventually the hatched larvae, to grow a structure around the wounded area.  Galls are very common in oaks and are not considered harmeful to the health of trees.

For more detalied information about Mealy Oak Gall Wasp see the Mr. Smarty Plants post by Nan Hampton that talks about the specifics of the wasp, its reproduction, life-cycle, and affect on trees. 

The links in that post appear to no longer work. Below are updated links for the information cited in that answer about Mealy Oak Gall Wasps. 

"The Mealy Oak Gall on Ornimental Live Oaks in Texas"

"Gall Making Insects and Mites"

 

More Trees Questions

Decline of mesquite and persimmon trees in San Antonio
September 07, 2009 - We have lived in a house in San Antonio for about 30 years now and in the last 5 years, we have seen the decline of several mesquite and wild persimmon trees. I am wondering what would cause their de...
view the full question and answer

Planting trees to use carbon dioxide
September 06, 2007 - How many trees must we plant to use carbon dioxide produced by the average American in a year?
view the full question and answer

Bacterial wetwood disease in ash tree
November 11, 2004 - I have an Ash tree in my front yard. It's about 25 - 30 years old. About 2 months ago, it began to ooze sap from a point where a limb had been pruned, I'd say, about 15 - 20 years ago. So this cut ...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Chamaecyparis pisiflora turning brown in Fuqua-Varina NC
December 10, 2012 - I have a "Soft Serve False Cypress" Chamaecyparis pisifera'Dow Whiting PPAF, that has only been in the ground for 6-7 months. I just noticed that the branches and leaves are starting to die, turni...
view the full question and answer

Problems with maple tree in Redding CA
July 17, 2012 - I have a 2 yr. old October Glory tree that is looking bad. It leafed out this spring, but not as much as the others. In total I have 9 red maples along a fence row about 15 feet apart. The trees on ei...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.