Springtime has come early this year!
Redbuds, dogwoods, cherry trees, azaleas, and many other flowering plants color the landscape. However, it also brings on pollen.
For most people, it is just a nuisance, but for some, it can cause allergic reactions with symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing, and other respiratory difficulties. Despite the problems it causes, pollen does play an essential role in the reproductive processes of plants.
Pollen consists of tiny grains produced in the male parts of flowering and cone-bearing plants. It is transferred to the female parts of the flowers resulting in fertilization and the production of seeds. There are two kinds of pollen.
Some plants, mostly types with showy visible flowers, produce a large sticky substance spread to other plants by insects like honeybees. It is not dispersed through the air. It seldom causes allergic reactions. The other type is pollen dispersed by the wind, which is the source of most of the problems.
Trees and plants which do not have showy flowers produce lightweight pollen grains. They shed their pollen into the air on warm, dry days, releasing large quantities of it to improve the likelihood of pollinating the female flowers. Examples include oak, birch, grasses, and ragweed.
Pine trees are an example of wind-pollinated plants. They produce vast amounts of pollen, which can cover everything. The individual grains have two large wings that help disperse them through the air. Often large clouds of it can be observed being blown by the wind. The amount produced and released depends upon relative humidity, wind, and the overall health of the male pinecone. The yellow pollen from pine trees often gets blamed for allergies.
However, it is not a potent allergen, and the individual grains are too large to penetrate deeply into the respiratory tract. The real culprits are the various weeds, grasses, and trees such as oaks, birch, and hickory. Their pollen grains are much smaller and have chemicals that can cause allergic reactions.
Not much can be done to prevent pine pollen from falling on everything. Wash it off and sweep it away. For the smaller-grained pollen that causes allergies, a few tactics can mitigate their effects. Limit outdoor activities during periods when the concentration is high.
Weather reports on local TV news stations give information on the pollen count so you can plan your day around it. If you must work outdoors, wearing a dust mask can help reduce pollen inhalation. Keep the windows, and doors shut in the home and use a hypoallergenic air conditioning filter. Rain can remove it from the air and wash it away, and the levels are often much lower after rainfall. If allergies are severe, consult with a physician.
As you can see, pollen is a necessary part of plant reproduction. The pollen grain is a container for DNA, which is how plants maintain genetic diversity. Even though pollen causes difficulties for some people, we need to appreciate its vital role in nature.
Success! An email has been sent to with a link to confirm list signup.
Error! There was an error processing your request.
Welcome to the discussion.
Please log in, or sign up for a new, free account to read or post comments.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.