Once in Sacramento, how can we miss a visit to Napa Valley, America’s most celebrated wine region. Napa is best known as a booming wine region, serving up some of the top vintages and some of the best wines in the world. The rolling hills and sunny skies make the region a picturesque spot for a quick getaway.
In Napa Valley, I was surprised by the giant Oak Trees – not by their sizes and not by the littleness of the small acorns that grew on them, but by the Oak Apples.
That’s what I knew about Mighty Oaks and Little Acorns until my visit to the Napa Valley. There were Big Oak Apples growing on the Mighty Oaks too.
An oak apple is not a fruit but a gall. Now what is a Gall?
Plant galls are abnormal outgrowths of plant tissues. They can be caused by various parasites, fungi, and bacteria. Oak apple galls are leaves that have developed into a thin sphere because wasps have laid eggs inside of the leaf.
As the egg hatches, chemicals and hormones released through fluid alter the leaf’s typical growth and the leaf develops into green round ball to create a secure tiny home for one wasp larva. In summer, the larva turns into a pupa, and then into an adult wasp. The adult wasp exits the gall by making a hole, and the galls turn brown and sometimes drop to the ground. Males and females mate, and females burrow into the ground to lay eggs and the cycle restarts again.
The mighty oak tree, the galls and the oak apple wasps teach us about the complexity of the natural world around us and demonstrate how native tree species support. There are hundreds of insects that produce galls, even within a single oak tree. Other insects use different species of plants to create galls. And many other organisms sometimes take advantage of a gall one larva has created and repurpose it for their own use.
On September 03, Kumar Bala aka Nandu surprised me with a visit to Sacramento. Kumar and I are from the same batch at Sainik School, Amaravathi Nagar, Thamizh Nadu. He is the Head of Life Sciences Strategy at Oracle with a focus on Medical Device and Pharma sectors. He lives in the Bay Area, about 90 minutes’ drive from Sacramento. We had lunch at Mylapore Restaurant at Folsom, about thirty minutes’ drive from Sacramento. The restaurant served the most authentic Dosa, Uthappam, Idli and other South Indian delicacies. It was indeed a great place to culminate our reunion and my California trip.