Marble Galls

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I spent all morning studying Andricus Kollari, the tiny parasitic wasp whose eggs cause the marble oak galls on both scrubby oaks growing beside my own Egg.  The life cycle of the wasp requires the presence of a Turkey oak which first grew in the UK before the last glacial period around 110,000 years ago and was reintroduced in 1735 as an ornamental tree. Nearby Exbury Gardens has its own mature examples.
‘The developing spherical galls mature in August and each has a central chamber, with a single female wasp larva of an asexual generation, which emerges through a ‘woodworm-like’ hole as an adult winged gall-wasp in September. These asexual females lay unfertilized eggs in the embryonic bud leaves of the Turkey oak, with galls slowly developing during winter, and visible in March and April as small oval structures between the bud scales, looking like ant’s eggs.  The emerging adult gall-wasps in spring are the sexual generation, producing both males and females, which fly to the common oaks to initiate the formation of the summer marble gall.’
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andricus_kollari

By 1830 the galls were a concern in the new Forest, where it was thought that they reduced acorn production sufficiently to have an adverse effect on Pannage* This year there was a huge crop of both galls and acorns. Beadle drawings use ink made from the galls.  *ref. my blog of January 22nd.

The Gall is more often seen than its wasp, which is just 1.5 - 2mm in length.

The Gall is more often seen than its wasp, which is just 1.5 – 2mm in length.

Life & Death

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The blackthorn thicket is filled with thousands of tiny buds which will soon produce cascades of bright flowers to whiten the wintery greyness surrounding the Egg. These blooms are thought to symbolise both life and death together, as they appear on the tree before any leaves; symbolising both an ending (of winter) and a new beginning (of spring).

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Of Gorse

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Yellow gorse flowers were a cheering splash of colour on a rare dry evening, given a warm tint by the setting sun as the moon rose up behind. Of course gorse is a common plant up on the heathland of the New Forest, but I had not expected to find it so close to the sodden marsh as it prefers well drained environments. It is a combustable plant and Furze (as locals know it) used to be collected for the domestic hearth. I shall be watching out for the many spiders and caterpillars that regard it as home and may pay my own homage by making wine from its flowers.

 

Orris Root

IMG_1117Following on from my previous posting, I can report that the search for orris root (an ingredient in the purification of Exbury Sea salt in the eighteenth century) has quickly proved fruitful. On a walk today with friends and with my neighbour’s dogs, I found the Iris Garden (in Exbury Gardens bordering my parish). However, I will remain on the look out for less cultivated evidence closer to home.

I realise I have encountered it already as a flavouring and aromatic in gin, and it is used mainly today in perfume. Its scent prevails over those of others in ‘Tumulte’ for example, a scent by Christian Lacroix or more obviously in ‘Infusion d’iris’ from Prada*. I may distill it as part of a unique essence of place for the Egg.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orris_root

Molly Exploring the Iris Garden

Molly Exploring the Iris Garden

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Shadow Play

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Moonlight through the tangled thorny forest of the blackthorn egg, cast ghostly reminders of wildwood onto the planed and tamed timbers of the Exbury Egg in the early hours this morning.

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