Large slivers of sun beamed through the trees as it made its way through the western sky, highlighting the landscape below.  The shards of sun, though lovely and warm, made visible every flaw and anomaly, including the air itself.  It was teeming with debris, polluted and impure.  This Spring has brought the highest pollen levels in more than two decades, wreaking havoc on allergy sufferers, some calling it a pollen tsunami or pollenpalooza, but what exactly is going on?

A somewhat late, lingering Winter meant that trees got a bit of a late start, so when warmer temperatures finally arrived, the build up of pollen was at historic highs.  To add insult to injury, big pollen producers like Oak and Birch are releasing at the same time as Ash and other big hitters, making it a powerful one-two punch.

In addition to the fine yellow dusting visible on our cars and garbage cans, there are other telltale signs of pollen’s powerful presence. Many of  you, like us, are plagued with the Spanish Moss of the Midwest – Oak catkins.  These are the stringy, brown things that collect in the grass and amass into irksome, absurd tumble weeds.  Catkins, also known as aments, are clusters of male flowers.  Each of the little seedy bumps represent one male flower, which is made up of a bract, a calyx, and a pollen producing stamen.  Once the stamens have released their pollen into the air, the catkins fall to the ground, littering the landscape and clogging our gutters. Once on the ground, the pollen released is negligible, but their mere presence is an indication that pollen abounds.  An overabundance of male trees can make this time of year even more unbearable for the allergy sufferer.

With the assistance of Spring rains and the impending Summer season, the pollen should subside.  When in doubt, check your city’s pollen count here.

“Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.”
-James Russell Lowell

Best wishes,
Kim Sweeney