I live in Corpus Christi. "The Thing" shown in the attached photos appeared on my gardenia bush in June 2014. I showed the pictures to a guy at Turner's Nursery and he said it was some kind of plant cancer and to get rid of it. I didn't. The leaves on The Thing all eventually turned brown and then it disappeared a couple of weeks ago. A day or so later it appeared on my neighbor's porch and stayed there for about a day and disappeared again. My neighbor saw it move and said it stuck its head out and pulled its body up to its head. Sounded to me like some kind of slug or snail. It kind of shivered when you touched it. Do you know what it is?
Nueces County Texas horticulture
Just in time for Halloween right? This has been passed around several agents and nothing definitive, just ideas.
1. Sometimes plants are mutated and forms what we call "witches broom" condition, which is similar to the foliage and buds seen in your photos. This can be done naturally, or brought on by viral source, fungal, bacterial, or even insect vector pests. The folks at Turners where on to something. Not necessarily a true cancer, but similar in action, as the plant cells are not growing the way they were designed. In any of these situations, you simply cut off the effected portion of the plant and discard.
2. It could be that there could be slugs, snails, insects, or other organisms living within the witches broom as it serves as a great safe hangout.
None of us suggest this is some mobile life form, but hey we don't know it all! I would simply dig down into it and see what pops out. You may have created a MONSTER!!!
Happy Halloween! and good day, Boone