Lately, when out, I've come across a few of these, the leaves looked like a willow tree but it appeared to have a growth resembling a pinecone. At last I discovered it is a Willow Gall. Much like the galls on goldenrod (round bulges in the stem) this occurs when an insect (midge gall in this case) lays a single egg in a willow's terminal bud in spring. Chemicals injected by the female midge mixed with the chemicals exuded by the egg cause the willow to stop the elongating of the branch and instead causes the leaf tissue to broaden and Harden into the shape that resembles the scales on a pine cone. The larvae will then safely grow to adulthood and emerge from the gall leaving no harm done to the tree.
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Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who spends her time exploring and learning about the unique history and nature in North East Ohio. She lives with her husband and cat in Wooster where she is also a family portrait and nature photographer as well as grows and cans her own vegetables. When she's not doing that, yoga and embroidery (not at the same time) are other things she enjoys.