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Following quickly on from yesterday’s oak galls, part 1, we have oak attack, part 2, a sorry tale of knoppers and artichokes – and, no, you can’t eat them!

First the knoppers, which are caused by Andriscus quercuscalicis, a wasp with chemical weapons. The wasp lays its eggs in buds on oak trees and the larvae, when they hatch, secrete a chemical that causes the developing acorn to distort into a knobbly lump, thus forming a home for themselves. The galls are structurally interesting but not so good for the oak tree, as the acorn is no longer a viable seed for the tree and I presume the knopper gall also makes the acorn unsuitable as food for wildlife as well. Apparently, this wasp only arrived in Britain in the 1960s but its spread has been rapid, with the galls now found throughout Wales and England and in southern Scotland, though only on the Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur).

Artichoke galls – also known as hop galls due to their resemblance to flower of the hop plant – are also the result of chemical distortion by a wasp. This time it’s Andricus foecundatrix that does the damage. Using its sharp ovipositor, it lays its eggs in the leaf buds of both the Pedunculate oak and the Sessile oak (Quercus petraea). Like yesterday’s Spangle-causing wasp, Andricus foecundatrix also has both a sexual and an asexual generation. The asexual wasp hatches from her artichoke home in the springtime and lays her eggs in oak catkins, causing a small oval-shaped gall to develop – I don’t yet have any photos of these galls but you can see images here.