Pollen great for plants, terrible for allergy sufferers

Sweetgum trees are beginning their bloom cycle. Soon their green burrs will be growing and filled with seed.

Most societies have a “Golden Age” of some sort. The pinnacle of a culture’s development is represented by a variety of accomplishments that forever denote the character of the generations which produced the successes.

The hallmarks of the zenith vary widely in the eyes of historians. There can be complex philosophies on the meaning of life, and there is military conquest encompassing the known world.

All the esteemed and refined deeds are compared to the precious yellow metal, which has historically imparted the aura of great wealth and exceptional value.

In Wakulla County there are golden weeks each spring. In this instance, the tint’s tone is set by multiple species of trees releasing pollen.

Pines, sweetgums, oaks, maples and many more are contributing to the saffron haze dusting the area. Those sensitive to the particulate matter are turning to antihistamines and tissues, which are prominently displayed on retail endcaps throughout the area.

Loblolly, long leaf and slash are the most common pines in the county, but there are others. The pollen production occurs on many of the branch tips, sometimes with a distinct yellow cast easily seen in bright daylight.

Sweetgums also produce blooms on branch tips. The pale-yellow color of this structure is in stark contrast to the bright green emerging leaves.

Live oaks shed their leaves in early spring with blooms shortly following. The tree’s hue changes from a deep and distinctive green to almost a lime shade.

Southern maples have a decidedly different color scheme. Their cardinal red blooms emerge before the leaves and contribute pollen to the ongoing dusting.

Winged seed, also red, quickly follow and are distributed on the wind. This maple’s leaves arrive well after the similarly shaped sweetgum’s foliage.

Early spring winds do most of the work scattering the golden genetic material. Depending on sometime energetic weather fronts, the pollen can be scattered for miles beyond its parent plant.

Admittedly problematic for allergy sufferers and those obsessed with the pristine appearance of their vehicles, the pollen distribution is quite beneficial beyond its short-term inconvenience.

This disorderly mixing of the infinitesimal particles assures the next generation’s traits will be thoroughly blended so as to continue the species, no matter the environmental condition. Uniform monocultures are far more susceptible to disease and fungal issues.

Successful spring pollination usually indicates a bountiful seed production. This bodes well for these native trees replacing aged-out timber, but the animal and bird population benefit, too.

Acorns, pine cones and other tree seed feed masses of wildlife throughout the year. Without the continued production of these kernels, feathers and fur would disappear from the surroundings.

These golden weeks only occur in the spring. There are many bright yellow wildflowers in the autumn, most notably goldenrod, falsely accused of nasal irritation.

In reality the primary culprit is ragweed. It blooms simultaneously with goldenrod and others.

Soon April showers will end the golden weeks and wash away the unused pollen.

Everyone will breathe easier knowing the trees are done for another year.

To learn more about spring tree activity in Wakulla County, contact your UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or http://wakulla.ifas.ufl.edu/.

To read more stories by Les Harrison visit outdoorauthor.com and follow us on Facebook.

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