Saturday, March 13, 2010

Oklahoma Pollen

By Catherine Dougherty

Spring is arriving right on schedule. The brilliance of the Sun and Moon is calling the seeds from the soil. The first jonquils have begun blooming, the buds on the trees are swelling, and the lovely Forsythia has a few spots of yellow appearing on bare branches. With these occurrences one can sit back and delight in the fact that spring is coming earlier than expected.

With the buds swelling on the Maple and Elm comes considerable pollen. Without going into intricate scientific explanations of the reproductive cycle of plants, it may be simply stated that the pollen of most trees, shrubs, and grasses is lighter than the pollen of flowers. It is carried by the wind as high as three miles up and as far as 100 miles from the original plant. Flowers generally have heavier pollen and require pollination by bees, hummingbirds, and other insects. A flower that is self-pollinating usually has no scent; scented flowers use their fragrance to attract external pollinators.

The light pollen is easily inhaled as it travels on the wind. It is the culprit of the condition called hay fever (or allergies) as it may irritate an individual's throat and nose. It is impossible to avoid pollen this time of year and Oklahoma is famous for the amount of pollen produced here. Remember our supply is so vast the illustrious Smithsonian Institution comes here to collect samples!

Due to the desert conditions, Arizona was once a haven for people with severe allergies. However as subhurbs grew and people began planting non-native species of trees and plants, establishing irrigated lawns and gardens, more irritating species of plants gained a foothold. Arizona lost its claim of freedom from hay fever and it was almost alone in that claim.

No matter where one goes this time of year, there is no escape from the irritants of pollen. It is necessary for the reproduction of plants and we must accommodate them while sneezing our way through spring.