I noticed that the acorns were knobbly and mutated
THE other day I had a lovely autumnal walk to Vassals Park in Fishponds. It is a park steeped in history as, like Blaise Castle, it was landscaped by Humphrey Repton back in the 18th century.
Many of the remaining landscape features can still be seen there, such as the ornamental ponds and the carriage drives that wind around the estate.
Where the football changing rooms are now situated once stood a hunting lodge. The garden walls can still be seen.
As I was wondering around just admiring the amazing landscape and wildlife I decided to collect some bits and pieces of natural things so I can show children whenIi teach at local schools.
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The first thing I noticed was an oak tree. The leaves on it were sick and yellow looking. I looked on the back of a leaf. It was laden with eggs from the Spangle Gall wasp. I collected a few leaves and put them in my bucket. On another leaf I found a different species of wasp egg. The silky button gall wasp, pictured.
It is called silky because the eggs which it sticks to the underside of the leaves really do look like silky buttons.
I noticed the acorns were all knobbly and mutated. These are called oak galls.
In one oak tree alone more than 70 different species of insects including wasps will lay eggs on the leaves.
But what is interesting is that each species of wasp larvae will mutate an acorn in a different way. For example the knopper gall wasp is responsible for making the acorns turn lumpy.
The oak apple gall wasp will change the acorn into what looks like an apple.
I stopped on my walk for few minutes and decided to get an ice-cream.
I came across about a dozen children and parents playing nearby.
"What have you got in your bucket" they asked. "Well, lots of natural things I," I replied.
They were keen to see and ended up gathering around me. The next moment we were studying the galls and fungus.
We even made some natural plasters from a fungus called the Birch Polypore.
What a fantastic afternoon it turned out to be ending with an impromptu nature lesson in the park.
If you would like to book me for an event my website is www.steveengland.co.uk. Follow me on Twitter @steveengland300.
Steve England is an (RHS) horticulturist, amateur naturalist and chairman of the Stoke Park steering group. Contact him at email@example.com