Chestnut Herbal School

Oak Apple Galls

Written and Photographed by Juliet Blankespoor

Oak Gall powder puff

Oak Gall powder puff

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.

Oak gall

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 woods-cosmetologists shake out the larval poop and incorporate the spongy remains into their outdoor beauty regimes.

inside of oak gall wasp home

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 is the founder, primary instructor, and Creative Director of the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, an online school serving thousands of students from around the globe. She's a professional plant-human matchmaker and bonafide plant geek, with a degree in botany and over 30 years of experience teaching and writing about herbalism, medicine making, and organic herb cultivation. Juliet’s lifelong captivation with medicinal weeds and herb gardening has birthed many botanical enterprises over the decades, including an herbal nursery and a farm-to-apothecary herbal products business. 

These days, she channels her botanical obsession through her writing and photography in her online programs, on her personal blog Castanea, and in her new book, The Healing Garden: Cultivating and Handcrafting Herbal Remedies. Juliet and her family reside in a home overrun with houseplants and books in Asheville, North Carolina.

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