Saturday, 30 May 2009

Be that an apple yonder?

'What be those odd looking lumps of things on this tree?' I thought to myself. 'They shouldn't be there. That's an oak tree. It should have acorns.' Off for the camera I went, grabbing hold of Lester en route.





'What are those things?' I asked him. He didn't know. So he reached up and picked one. It smelt like an apple. Now apples grow on apple trees, acorns grow on oak trees so momentarily I wondered if the world had gone slightly askew and a bee had cross pollinated the flowers of the oak tree with apple pollen and ended up with this acorn/apple, which even then felt spongy as if it could bounce if one threw it a distance.


But looking at the tree felt surreal. It has long, tassle-like flowers that looked out of place as well and didn't look like they could produce anything like an acorn, or an apple, or an acorn/apple. They didn't even looked like they belonged to the tree but they did because I tugged one and the branch it was attached to thwacked me on the head as punishment for being too rough.


So we both scratched our heads and did the only thing left to do: go search on the Internet which is 'must-do' occupation for when things come up which we haven't got a clue about. The Internet is used often: for French translations, for veggie info, for YouTube vids, for generally wasting time which is why I now have a watch so I can keep an eye on how long I spend investigating all manner of interesting subjects which have nothing to do with anything important.


Et voila! An oak-apple! The Internet says so, or rather the website www.jmu.edu/biology/k12/galls/oakapp.htm.



In May a wasp-like insect lays an egg in the base of a soon-to-open leaf of an oak tree. The tree doesn't think this is something that should happen, so gets mad and surrounds the egg in a spongy container, which is called the 'gall'. But the mother wasp has got this sussed, and the eggs keep growing nevertheless, eventually hatching inside the gall, then boring exit holes to escape their confinement in June/July. The male and female wasps then get together as is the manner of all creatures who want to create the next generation, and the female wasp flies down to the base of the oak tree, burrows in the soil and lays her now fertile eggs in the roots.
"Oh no", the tree says, "not again", and then forms a root gall to enclose the eggs. Sixteen months later a wingless female emerges, climbs up the trunk of the oak tree, and lays her eggs in the leaf buds again and so the cycle continues.

And gosh oh crikey, but I find that fascinating to think about. And my mind expands further to think about how we tend to exist in our own little bits of the world paying disregard to everything and everyone else around us. Blinkered, that's what we are.

So this thingy up the tree is an oak apple. And while it looks as if it just hanging there doing nothing, it is in fact part of a complicated and busy life cycle. Oh it might only be a little wasp that in the greater scheme of things, according to us human beings, is hardly worthy of a second glance let alone a blog, but nevertheless it is living its life as best it can.

Things I have learnt: that it is good for the soul to have respect for all things. That it is good to investigate experiences which come along because one's thinking will become ever more expanded. That the Internet is a must-have requirement for me, and comes only a fraction behind my requirements for a roof on our house.