Along with green grass and beautiful blooms, springtime in Georgia brings clouds of pollen.
The onset of pollen season always seems to hit hard. One day you don’t notice the pollen, the next day your porch, patio furniture and cars are covered.
For most of us it is just a nuisance. For allergy sufferers, it is a source of major irritation. Many of us wonder just how long will pollen season last.
Most of the pollen that is annoying us now comes from trees. Pollen is the male portion of the life cycle of trees. There are two types of pollen. In some plants, the pollen is sticky and is spread by insects, like bees. Sticky pollen is in many flowering plants, including trees that bear showy flowers.
The type of pollen that bothers most of us is wind-blown pollen. These lightweight, gritty grains are produced by many trees that do not bear showy flowers in the spring.
You can find the stringy male flowers or catkins from oaks, walnuts and hickories littering lawns and driveways. These structures shed pollen during warm dry days.
Humidity plays an important role in the spread of tree pollen. In wet weather, the male flowers can actually drop to the ground without shedding their pollen. Humid conditions limit the spread of wind-borne pollen.
The pollen doesn’t travel as well in moist air. On dry breezy days, however, wind-blown pollen can really travel. That’s why the pollen count usually goes up considerably on dry days.
Pines produce large quantities of pollen. You can shake a pine branch this time of year and often see a fine yellow powder fly into the air. I have seen yellow clouds of pollen drifting through pine forests like a London fog.
Other trees produce pollen as well. Currently the pollen from oak, sycamore, hickory, pecan and pine are all in the air.
Trees, of course, are not the only plants that produce pollen. In fact, many allergy clinics divide the year into three separate pollen seasons.
The tree pollen season began in late February and peaked here in late-March to early-April when outdoor surfaces were completely covered with a dusty yellow residue.
But don’t celebrate just yet — daily pollen counts are still very high. Fortunately, the tree pollen season winds down in May. Then grass pollen season begins in early-May and usually ends by mid-May.
But there is also a summer weed pollen season to battle. It begins in mid-August and can last until the arrival of cold weather in late-October.
Although pollen is necessary for the reproduction of trees and other plants, it can be a real nuisance to humans. It causes untold misery among those suffering from "hay fever."
Allergy sufferers keep a close watch on the local pollen count. Pollen counts are made by exposing a plastic rod or other device covered with a sticky substance to the wind. After a 24-hour period the surface is examined under a microscope to determine the amount and type of pollen present.
Pollen counts are often expressed as the number of pollen grains present in 1 cubic meter of air in a 24-hour period.
There is no practical way to control pollen in the landscape. However, we can do a few things to limit its impact:
• Wash or rinse your car, porches and other surfaces to prevent pollen damage.
• Use air or a delicate brush to remove pollen from fine surfaces like camera lenses and optical devices.
• Keep the doors and windows of your home closed during pollen season.
• Replace the filters in your home air-conditioning system.
If you get desperate enough, you can try doing a rain dance.