The leaves are being swept from the trees and hedges, revealing previously hidden treasures. Along the edges of the newly ploughed fields, which rise up the hill where the wind whips, wild roses scramble. And here and there along their stems robin’s pincushions redden, each one a delicate mass of moss-like fronds.
These unkempt growths are Rose Bedeguar galls, each one providing a safe place for the grubs of the gall wasp to pupate and overwinter. The name originates from the French bédegar, which in turn comes from the Persian bād-āwar meaning “wind brought”. And although they are caused by the grubs, when newly hatched, secreting chemicals on to the plant, their tumbleweed appearance makes it possible to imagine they might have blown in on the wind and become caught in the thorny tangle of the roses.
Whether due to a loss of leaves or the fact that we are paying more attention to the oak trees now there are acorns to admire, it becomes easier to spot oak galls too: the woody spheres of oak marble galls, the spongy growths of oak apples, and the layered buds of artichoke galls.
Throughout history oak galls have been collected to make ink; the tannin from the galls mixed with vitriol (iron sulphate), gum Arabic, and water to create a dark pigment.
Earlier in the year the Tree Charter encouraged an oak gall harvest, asking people across the UK to help gather the growths to create the ink that will be used to write the final charter. This will be launched on 6 November, and there’s still time to show your support for the principles it embraces by signing the charter here.