29th Sep, 2009

Cedar-Apple Rust Galls coincidence

March 2008

In November of 2007, I was out with some friends randoming around the wintery farmlands of Northwestern Minnesota, looking for abandoned farmhouses, barns, and industrial structures. I had to pee pretty badly, and being in the middle of nowhere we pulled over so I could use some nearby bushes. While I was there doing what needed to be done, I noticed some weird lumps on the shrub I was using for cover. They weren’t like anything I had seen before, so I picked a few of them off of the branches and brought them back to the van.

mysterious growths

mysterious growths

My friends thought they were just the tree’s reproductive organs, maybe in an early developmental stage, but I’d spent a fall obsessed with gall-forming wasps, and I suspected these weird, porous bumps might be galls of some sort.

I broke some open, expecting to show them all some kind of little tiny insect larvae – but nope, nothing. Just woody growth.

Since I didn’t know what the tree I’d found them on was, I didn’t have a good way to look into the answer – so the galls kicked around my living room for the next several months, frequently getting picked up by friends, who would of course ask me what the hell they were. I always answered with “I don’t know, yet.”

Because I meant to figure it out – I just didn’t know how.

But months passed and the answer continued to elude me.

Then in March, I stopped by a blog I had first encountered under synchronistic circumstances (“Poison Ivy & the Mandelbrot Set“) and saw this post:

Gardener’s Factoid of the Day

…And NOW….orange tendril monsters are attacking my pine trees!!!! GAH! It’s the end of everything!!!” First of all, at my “country estate” back home in podunk country, we have a lot of cedar trees, and a great big one just outside my bedroom window. Anyway, around a year or so ago—I think it was finals week–I was feeling kind of stressed. I hadn’t been outside in a while and hadn’t been observing the trees much. It had just rained, and it looked creepy enough out there already, but I wanted to let in a little natural light. Anyway. I opened the blinds….and….THIS was what I saw:

cedar_applerust1

Everywhere.

“MOM! It’s THE END OF THE WORLD! We’re being invaded by orange MONSTERS!”Well. Okay. So I was feeling dramatic.But there’s nothing quite like looking out at your cedar woods and seeing thousands of these things dangling from every pine branch. It looked like a scene from ALIEN…or Invasian of the Mighty Orange Tendril Monsters…or Revelation…or something.My scientific skepticism arose and I googled the monsters.

Turned out it’s Cedar Apple Rust.http://plantclinic.cornell.edu/FactSheets/cedar-applerust/cedar-applerust.htm

Thankfully it’s gone now and believe it or not the stuff is absolutely harmless. It didn’t suck the life force out of the cedar woods or anything. It really didn’t do ANYTHING.Our yard sure looked pretty weird for around a month or so though….There are some experiences you just don’t have in the city.

OK, interesting enough. I’d never seen such orange tendril monsters before, but it was neat.

Then I clicked on the link she’d provided – and immediately my eyes fixed on the image at left, middle … and the Case of the Mystery Galls was closed.

CedarAppleLifecycle large

lifecycle of Cedar-Apple Rust, a multi-host fungal parasite

 

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Responses

Strange how you put the question out there about the galls and somehow the answer is provided. Not immediately, but provided eventually.

Thanks for sharing your adventures in coincidence.

I found this from a google image search, but it really drew me in :) I’m glad your mystery was solved. Aren’t parasites the most amazing things? I’m researching ones with cool lifecycles, and the liver fluke goes snail to ant to mammal. Impressive, right?

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