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ASK THE EXPERTS

What causes pollen

POSTED: April 24, 2013 4:00 a.m.

Spring is a beautiful time of year. Longer days, green grass and leaves reappearing on the trees really brighten up my mood.

However, for the allergy sufferers among us, spring may also be a time full of sneezing and wheezing.

As pollen coats our cars and our lungs, many people may be wondering where all this pollen comes from.

Pollen granules are small spores that come from the male flowers of plants. Most of the pollen we are seeing now comes from trees. You can often see the remnants of the male flowers, called catkins, on driveways and sidewalks after the heaviest pollen surges.

There are two classes of pollen - ‘sticky' and ‘wind-blown.'

Sticky pollen is produced by plants that have showy flowers, like azaleas and dogwoods. It sticks to bees and is transported to fertilize other plants.

Wind-blown pollen, like that of pine and oak trees, is released in large masses in the spring and randomly pollinates trees of the same species.

Although pine pollen is usually the messiest and most prolific, it is not the cause of most allergies.

Pine pollen is heavy and wet, and most of it falls quickly to the ground. Most allergies are caused by light, dry pollen from oak, elm, hickory, boxelder and sumac. Tree pollen season usually winds down by mid-May.

Don't get too excited, though. More pollen is yet to come.

Grass pollen takes its toll usually during the month of May.

The summer weed pollen season also begins in July or August and runs until November. This is the time when the dreaded ragweed pollen wreaks havoc on our respiratory systems.

Many people like to catch the ‘pollen count' portion of the morning news. Pollen counts are measured by special diagnostic rods coated with silicone grease.

The rods are set out and monitored on a 24-hour cycle. The pollen grains collected are then counted under a microscope. The grain count is then converted into a concentration, usually given in ‘grains per cubic meter of air.'

In spite of all the allergies, let's remember that all of this is for a good cause. Trees are vitally important to humans.

In Georgia alone, the forestry industry contributes more than $27 billion to our state economy. We all rely on trees for paper and building materials that we benefit from every day.

And let's not forget the best part - oxygen. Trees are essential for supporting life on planet Earth.

Tomorrow when you step outside with itchy eyes, a scratchy throat and a runny nose, try and appreciate all the good that pollen season helps to create.

It's a small price to pay for all of this free oxygen.

Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706) 265-2442.

 

 

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