Fuzz balls on my live oak tree are unsightly but not harmful. by Mary Reid Barrow

“Uh, oh,” I wrote in a Virginian-Pilot blog five years ago after I discovered a live oak leaf on my porch with a fuzzy attachment on its underside.

It looked just like this leaf in the photo that I took the other day.

Both dropped from my live oak tree over my porch,  but the innocent looking fuzz ball worried me back then.  I was afraid a disease was attacking my tree.  Today I  knew  that the fuzz ball  is a live oak leaf gall.

The galls may be ugly and they may damage the leaf, but they don’t cause any long-term harm to one of my favorite trees, I learned.

Galls are created by certain species of little wasps when they lay their eggs on leaves, twigs and bark of various trees.  The wasps  ooze a chemical that irritates the tree tissue and cause  the tree to create a home for the larvae.

Galls show up in some years  and become visible in the fall on live oaks.  As the live oaks begin to randomly drop their leaves, you may see them with  galls still attached, as I did the other day.

As spring rolls around, some birds may glean the galls for a dinner of  wasp larvae that are growing up inside. Then the empty little fuzz balls may fall off the leaf and also land on the  ground.

Trees, like the live oak, are the linchpin of life for  so many animals, even unsightly galls, tiny wasps and birds that eat them.