A Texas parks and wildlife ranger doing trail maintenance around Atlanta State Park in Austin, Texas last Tuesday was the person who spotted the strange=looking "flower."
“Is it a natural lollipop? Is it a flower designed by Dr. Seuss?” the Atlanta State Park asked in a Facebook post
. The post went viral almost immediately, with over 2,200 shares. Besides the "Oohs and Aaahs," there were a number of comments from people who had grown up with Dr. Seuss books.
One Facebook user wrote, “It’s Hooville!” and another commented, "For some reason, it reminds me of HORTON HEARS A WHO!!! Anyone else?" But like this writer, most people didn't know what the strange flower-like thing really was. It turned out that the answer was a real educational experience.
Atlanta State Park said that while from afar, the "flower" may resemble a seed-pod from a dandelion flower before it blooms, it is not a flower at all, but a wool sower gall. They are caused by organisms such as fungi, bacteria, insects and mites.
Galls or cecidia
are a kind of swelling growth on the external tissues of plants or animals. Plant galls are abnormal growths of plant tissues, similar to benign tumors or warts in animals.
“These are created when a wool sower wasp lays its eggs in a white oak,” the park explained
. “When the eggs hatch in spring, chemicals on the grubs stimulate the plant to produce this gall, which provides food and protection for the growing wasps.”
Atlanta State Park Superintendent Sam Knox told CBS News
that technically, the the gall is not a plant, but a seed pod for the non-stinging baby wasps.The female wasps lay a clutch of eggs on the bottom sides of leaves and the clutches grow into a gall.
Wool sower galls usually start popping up in May or June, but because of the warm weather coming earlier than normal, Knox expects to see even more. “I’ve never seen one specifically like this,” Knox said. “It’s very unique, and very early in the year.”
“They don’t all look that elongated in shape,” Knox said. “This one was about the size of a ping pong ball. I’ve never see one with red spots like that. It’s awesome to see and very unique.”