Chestnut Herbal School

Oak Apple Galls

Written and Photographed by Juliet Blankespoor

Oak Gall powder puff

Oak Gall powder puff

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Oak Apple Galls make nice powder puffs, once they are vacated. Another lesser-known use is a wet willy-tickler, as demonstrated by the adventurous Megan Riley.

These are some of the most common galls I see in the southern Appalachians, and can be found growing from various red oaks, such as the Scarlet, Red and Black Oaks (Quercus spp., Fagaceae). These golf-ball sized brown papery growths are home to the apple gall wasp (Amphibolips confluenta), which, contrary to its scientific name and popular wasp folklore, does NOT in fact, resemble a bilingual, frog-mouthed wasp.

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Oak gall

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Seriously though, the single larva of the gall wasp develops inside this spongy cozy home until it emerges as an adult winged wasp. Once its home is vacated, enterprising woodswomen shake out the larval poop and incorporate the spongy remains into their outdoor beauty regimes.

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inside of oak gall wasp home

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Galls are formed from plant tissue, in response to chemicals produced by insects, which mimic various plant growth hormones. Inside the gall, the insect(s) happily munch on the plant tissue, while protected from predators. They are formed from various plant tissues depending on the host and the insect involved. If you have the gall, break your cotton-ball habit and get back to your primitive beauty care roots.

Meet The Green Mastermind Behind Blog Castanea:

Juliet Blankespoor

JULIET BLANKESPOOR founded the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in 2007 and serves as the school’s primary instructor and Creative Director. She's been a professional plant-human matchmaker for close to three decades. Juliet caught the plant bug when she was nineteen and went on to earn a degree in Botany. She's owned just about every type of herbal business you can imagine: an herbal nursery, a medicinal products business, a clinical practice, and now, an herbal school.

These days, she channels her botanical obsession with her writing and photography in her online programs and here on her personal blog, Castanea. She's writing her first book: Cultivating Medicinal Herbs: Grow, Harvest, and Prepare Handcrafted Remedies from Your Home Garden. Juliet and her houseplants share a home with her family and herb books in Asheville, North Carolina.

Learn more about cultivation, identification, and uses for medicinal herbs in our 1,000-hour Herbal Immersion Program, which is the most comprehensive handcrafted online herbal course out there.

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