Friday, May 3, 2013

Don't Blame the Daisies

Yes, it really is spring allergy season in spite of the winter like conditions we have enjoyed in northern Colorado. My teenage sons may be tired of shoveling snow, but I am happy for the moisture that the spring snows have brought to our state. But as the Colorado landscape slowly comes to life, so do the spring sniffles and itchy eyes. With all the suffering from spring allergy symptoms, there is big money to be made by companies that market all sorts of remedies from the symptoms. Which brings me to the purpose of this article and that is the misrepresentation by the media of the plant species responsible for your suffering.

A simple Google search using just two key words, spring allergy, and switching the search to images only brings up several accused suspects from the plant world. From there I get a page of photos including tulips, ox-eye daisy, Gerber daisy, cherry blossoms, sunflowers, and a whole lot of dandelions. I only saw one species that one might consider a spring allergen and that was tansy. And the television and print media advertisements are no different. If you have a product to sell to relieve spring allergies, put in a picture of a spring blooming plant. The lawyers might call this ex concessis, or guilt by association. We see the blooming plants, we have a sniffly nose, and thus we blame whom we see while the guilty party, which blooms at the same time, is hidden away. It is only human to blame your pain on the bright colorful plants that you see, but the true culprits are the plants that mostly inconspicuous blooms.

Plant species with brightly colored and scented blooms generate pollen grains that are relatively large and heavy, which have evolved to be carried by bees, butterflies, humming birds and other pollinator species. They are too heavy to be carried on wind currents. Trees and species such as ragweed with inconspicuous flowers bare copious quantities of pollen that is light enough for wind pollination. It is the wind-borne pollen that is causing your suffering, not the pollen from brightly colored plants, which are insect pollinated. 

So stop blaming the goldenrod when the ragweed is your culprit.

Some common trees that are strong allergens from March through June include maple, willow, poplar, elm, birch, mulberry, ash, hickory, oak, and walnut. Late summer and fall allergens include ragweed, pigweed, lambs quarters, and wormwood. A useful website for allergens and plants by location can be found at Also, the National Institute of Health has a Pollen Allergy fact sheet.

For more information, see the MedlinePlus page on Allergic rhinitis.

1 comment:

  1. Add junipers and assorted conifers in May and grasses all summer. Some days I want to move into a bubble!