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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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

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Wednesday - May 21, 2014

From: Pipe Creek, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Trees
Title: Small tan balls on oak from Pipe Creek TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, our spanish oak is growing tan colored lumpy balls about the size and weight of a marshmallow..sometimes just one at the end of a short stem and sometimes 2-3 clumped together. Inside is filled with a tan tight network of webbing. Though the tree had a particularly productive acorn growth last year, on we have never noticed these balls in the 35 years we've lived here. Could be we just never noticed them, I guess. Do you know what these are? Thanks!

ANSWER:

There are four species of the genus Quercus (oak) with an alternate common name of "Spanish Oak" in our Native Plant Database. Although three of them, Quercus buckleyi (Texas red oak), Quercus falcata (Southern red oak) and Quercus texana (Nuttall oak), are native to Texas, only Quercus buckleyi (Texas red oak) is native to Bandera County. That doesn't necessarily mean that is the tree in your garden, it just gives us one to use as an example.

Here is an article from A Greener View by Jeff Rugg on oak galls. Also, a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on this subject.The information we got from our sources was mostly saying that galls may be unsightly but are not a cause for concern, and no insecticide is going to control the insects that are causing the galls, because the insect is protected by the gall itself.  You might also consider contacting the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office for Bandera County TX.  If this is occurring on your property, it is probably showinng up on other trees in your area, and the Extension Office should be in a better position to identify the problem and/or assure you that it is not a threat to your tree.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas red oak
Quercus buckleyi

Southern red oak
Quercus falcata

Pin oak
Quercus palustris

Texas red oak
Quercus buckleyi

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