Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oak Gall Du Jour

(Click to enlarge)

This time of year the leaves of any oak tree look like wounded warriors, having hung on through humid heat waves that breed foliar fungi, hail storms, 80 mph straight line winds and a cloud of hungry insects.

Then at some point wasps lay their eggs and somehow magically, mysteriously induce the tree to form a gall that both protects and nourishes the wasp larva.

I think oak galls are incredibly cool, in part because I love having some things that science can't yet explain (or even pretend to explain) such as how they form.

Oak gall ink is made from galls called marble galls or "oak apples." Its amazing permanence made it the ink of choice for the most important works of art (Bach's compositions, da Vinci's drawings) and political documents.

One minor problem: Oak gall ink might last forever. The paper on which it is written, however, does not. Oak gall ink gradually eats away at the paper over time. Creating stencils of da Vinci's drawings, and lots job security for conservators.

The ultimate in oak geekdom: A photo of oak galls against a red oak floor I installed myself. No comments on the quality of my sanding please.

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