Pollen: Miracle of plant life, menace of seasonal allergies
Friday, February 24, 2017, 8:07 PM - For many allergy sufferers, the word “pollen” bodes discomfort and misery.
But what is pollen and which types do you need to look out for? Here’s a closer look at pollen, pollination, and what it means for allergy sufferers.
Flowering plants produce pollen—fine, powdery, yellowish grains—for the purpose of reproduction.1 Grains of pollen are carried from plant to plant by the wind or by insects (such as butterflies and bees) to fertilize other plants.
Plants with “showy” flowers, such as roses and tulips, make a heavy, waxy type of pollen that’s carried by insects. But that’s not the pollen you need to worry about. It’s plants without showy flowers, like trees, weeds, and grasses, that are responsible for most allergy-causing pollen.
Allergy-causing plants (trees, weeds, and grasses) make a light, dry type of pollen that’s carried by the wind. The individual pollen grains are too small to be seen by the naked eye and can travel many miles in the air. In fact, pollen samples have been collected more than 600 km out at sea and three kilometres high in the air.
The pollination process
Pollination starts and stops according to the length of the days and nights in a particular geographic location. How much pollen a plant produces is determined by the weather, which varies year-to-year.
To determine how much pollen is in the air in a certain place at a specific time, you can consult a pollen count. As a rule of thumb, pollen counts are highest early in the morning on warm, dry, breezy days and lowest when it’s chilly and wet.
Of course, the type of severity of allergy-causing pollen will vary depending on where you live and what the weather's been like. To prepare for allergy symptoms, you can go on the Internet to view allergy forecasts, as well as download allergy-tracking tools and apps.