Piñata for one

I saw a bunch of these on the side of a trail and got down into the deep snow to isolate this one from all the other weeds surrounding it. After a few tries with tripod positioning, I finally got an angle I like. After floundering back to the trail and walking a little bit farther, I realized I took a wrong turn and went back. LOL. Was worth it for this though. I’ve never photographed one before.

It’s a goldenrod gall that has been breached by a chickadee or possibly a downy woodpecker who love these for the fly grubs inside. If not a fly grub, they may find a wasp larvae instead. Certain species of wasp exploit the fly’s handiwork and insert their own eggs inside. When the wasp hatches it eats the fly grub and the food the fly placed for its own offspring. Both wasp and fly larvae can survive very low winter temps. Which ever one makes it crawls up a tunnel it chewed through the gall (almost to the outside) before the plant went dormant. The gall is formed by the plant as a response to the invading parasite that is the egg and larva. It does no harm. IRL it’s about 1 inch high.

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Too weird? It’s not super artistic, more documentarian. Just a shot of this phenomenon.

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No


Lr for initial RAW adjustments - lowered blacks & highlights, raised whites & shadows. Added texture & sharpening. Ps for some color painting, dodging and burning to give the sphere some contour and richness.


Kris, I’m not familiar at all with this little plant, so I sure appreciate the info you provided. Interesting that a fly or wasp might nest inside. I really like how you isolated it from any other plant life, and that snow sure makes it stand out. You captured some nice texture in it, and certainly managed the exposure well with the white BG. Very nice.

Fascinating – both the picture and the story behind it. The adaptations in nature are amazing!

Thanks @Shirley_Freeman & @Diane_Miller - it’s new to me as well. I’d seen them before without knowing what they are. I love this kind of thing. Glad I’m not alone.

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Weird, but not too weird. Galls are really fascinating, especially the life and death struggles that go on inside them. This is cool because you can see the marks the bird beak made to get to the larvae.

These sorts of things would make a good typology a la Berndt & Hilla Becher’s industrial buildings. :wink:

Thanks, @Bonnie_Lampley - it was the hole that grabbed me for sure. Others were intact, but this was just too interesting to pass up so into the snow I went.

Kris, it’s a very good look at this gall, with the snowy making for a clean background. The details in the hole are excellent.

Thanks @Mark_Seaver - a tripod triumph to getting that background!

Kris, I’ve seen these before and always wondered what was going on, so thanks for that explanation. Nope, not a lot of “art” in this frame, but it is somewhat symmetrical and would be a great candidate for a field guide to galls; good exposure, no distracting background, and plenty of detail.

Thanks @Jim_Lockhart - a big part of my nature photography is finding out more about what I’ve taken pictures of. So now I have a pretty sizeable collection of field guides and other ID books as well as natural histories and other books that delve into specific topics like feathers, mushrooms or bats. Always curious about the natural world.