Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Glade Sun

April 28, 2010

Is your car covered in yellow dust? Blaming it on a male?

CROSSVILLE — If everything outside at your house turned yellow over the last few weeks, including your car, then blame a male. Of course males often get blamed for just about everything that goes wrong in this world, and every once in a while we actually deserve it. In this case, the evidence is in the air…a male of a species is guilty.

As you probably know, the yellow dust covering everything that doesn’t move this time every year is pine pollen. Pine trees produce large (very large) amounts of pollen each spring in order to ensure that the seeds get fertilized and the species can survive. You may not know this, but pine trees have both male and female pine cones. The male cones are usually smaller and often not even noticed, but the pollen that they produce is. So, if your car is yellow, blame a male.

Now, if your seasonal allergies are kicking up with all of this yellow pine pollen, don’t blame a pine tree. Most people think that the pollen they see is the culprit causing their sneezing, but other male agents are at work here. Pine pollen is large and heavy and drops quickly to the ground, which is why it coats everything. But, because it drops out of the air quickly and also because it has a waxy coating, it usually isn’t a cause of allergies. The main cause of your sneezing is all of the other trees that are producing pollen at the same time.

Pines and their relatives are non-flowering plants called Gymnosperms. The Angiosperms, or flowering trees, grasses, and plants, are the ones that cause the most allergic reactions. Although their flowers are tiny and easily overlooked, the oaks, maples, hickorys, etc. are the main cause of hay fever this time of year, not the pines. Believe it or not, there may be 50-100 times the amount of oak pollen in the air right now than pine pollen. It is just much smaller and less conspicuous than pine pollen. Later in the year, other flowering plants, especially grasses and ragweed cause your hay fever. Bright yellow goldenrod usually gets the blame, but the small, plain-looking flowers of ragweed are the real bad guys. Things are not always as they seem.

So, if your car is yellow and your eyes are itching, don’t worry, the tree pollen will soon be gone and everything will be right in the world again. Oops, but then it will be time for the grass pollen and later the ragweed pollen… again, all of these irritations are caused by the males of the species. Men! What would you do without them?

Comments, questions or suggestions for future nature articles are welcome at don.hazel@gmail.com

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