Galls Galore – Background

A stand of goldenrod, its rugged stalks standing tall in a wintry field, is a good place to look for galls, one of nature’s small wonders. Many of the stalks sport hard, round swellings about an inch in diameter. Cradled in each, awaiting spring, is the larva of a gall-making insect. Its life cycle, like those of many other gall-makers, involves a remarkable relationship between an animal and its particular plant host.

A gall is an abnormal growth on a plant caused by another organism, most commonly an insect or a mite but also by nematodes, viruses, fungi, or bacteria. Continue reading Galls Galore – Background

Galls Galore – Activities

FOCUS:  Odd bumps and lumps on twigs, buds, and weed stalks might be galls, swellings on plants that are homes for an insect, mite, or other organism. A gall-maker causes its particular host plant to form a bulge in which it will live and feed for a time. Galls on buds, twigs, roots, or leaves of plants provide a safe home for the gall-makers and are an essential part of their life cycles.

Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about galls.

Ahead of time, collect a selection of goldenrod stems with goldenrod ball galls on them. Make sure to cut the stems so they are long enough to show the gall(s) and the seed head at the top of the stalk. Pass out a goldenrod ball gall and magnifying lens to each child, and ask children to observe and describe their gall.

Materials: ball gall on a goldenrod stem of either tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima) or late goldenrod (Solidago gigantea), one for each child; magnifying lenses.

Objective: To make observations and ask questions about goldenrod ball galls.

Using the goldenrod stalks from the Introduction, encourage children to look closely at their galls. You may wish to prompt their investigation with these questions: Continue reading Galls Galore – Activities

Galls Galore – Puppet Show

A Swell Day

Characters: Reddy Red Squirrel, Willow Pinecone Gall, Oak Apple Gall, Goldenrod Ball Gall, Raspberry Knot Gall.


Reddy Red Squirrel  One piney cone, two piney cones. I love pinecones and the little seeds I find inside them. And I’m counting on them to get me through the winter. Three piney cones…Oh, look! Here’s a pinecone I must have missed.

Willow Pinecone Gall Oh, boo hoo. Everyone thinks I’m a pinecone, but I’m not. If I were a pine, I’d have needles, wouldn’t I?

Squirrel  Hey, you’re right. How can you be a pine without needles? Continue reading Galls Galore – Puppet Show

Galls Galore – Standards


The activities in this unit help children understand the basic concepts in the Disciplinary Core Ideas listed here. You can use the following list as a guide for lesson planning. These Disciplinary Core Ideas are taken from Grade Band Endpoints in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Additionally, our activities give children opportunities to engage in many of the Science and Engineering Practices and reflect on the Crosscutting Concepts as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Continue reading Galls Galore – Standards