gall

gall, abnormal growth, or hypertrophy, of plant tissue produced by chemical or mechanical (e.g., the rubbing together of two branches) irritants or hormones. Chemical irritants are released by parasitic fungi, bacteria, nematode worms, gall insects, and mites. Crown gall, which attacks peach and other fruit trees, grapes, and roses, is caused by bacteria. Despite its name (the crown is the head of foliage), the tumorous growths usually occur on the stem below ground level. The gall insects (e.g., certain aphids, wasps, moths, beetles, and midges) deposit their eggs in the plant tissues, which begin to swell as the larvae hatch. Sometimes the larvae feed on the gall and pupate within it. The irritant is released by the female at the time of oviposition or by the developing larva itself. Each species of gall insect has its favorite host and forms galls of a characteristic shape; some are large and woody and others may be soft, knobby, or spiny. They may be formed on any part of a plant but generally occur in areas where cells are actively growing. In the United States, Galls are commonly seen on oak and willow trees and on rose bushes, goldenrod, and witch hazel. The Hessian fly, the wheat midge, and the mites and midges that attack fruit trees are the most damaging economically of the gall insects. Galls are rich in resins and tannic acid and have been used in the manufacture of permanent inks and astringent ointments, in dyeing, and in tanning. A high-quality ink has long been made from the Aleppo gall, found on oaks in the Middle East; it is one of a number of galls resembling nuts and called gallnuts or nutgalls.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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