Every summer and autumn these growths start appearing on the wild rose bushes around our lakes. And finally, I have got round to looking up what they are. Only taken seven years!
And the answer is – Robin’s pincushion galls. Or rose bedeguar gall. Or moss gall. It appears to have multiple personalities. It’s caused by the gall wasp diplolepsis rosae. The female lays up to 60 eggs in a leaf bud and the baby wasps will emerge in spring. Ninety-nine percent of these will be females, by the way, since this wasp is an asexually reproducing one (parthenogenetic, in case you were wondering).
To explain the names. First up, Robin’s pincushion gall. The Robin is Robin Goodfellow, the woodland sprite who pops up in traditional English folktales. (Puck, as in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, is another name for Robin Goodfellow.) The spikey appearance of this gall – although the spikes are quite soft – suggested the pincushion bit. Bedeguar comes from the French word for these galls, bédegar, which itself comes from Persian and means ‘wind-carried’.
Moss gall is probably the best description since this ball of sticky branched filaments does look like a ball of moss, often bright red.
So, mystery solved.
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