If you have been outside your house lately you probably have noticed a sheen of yellow dust on your car, patio furniture or the like.
In my case, before the temperatures got too hot to stand, we had our windows open and a fine layer of yellow dust covered our tables and window ledges—and that is just what we could see. All of this yellow is pollen primarily from our oak trees. According to the LR Allergy and Asthma clinic oak pollen is extremely high right now, but so is sweetgum and sycamore.
But how many of you recall seeing a bloom on any of those trees? When people think pollen they often thing showy flowers like we have on dogwoods,
redbuds, and fruit trees. Those trees rely on insects (namely bees) to pollinate them so they usually are not a cause of seasonal allergies for most people.
It is the trees without showy blooms like oaks, cedars, hickories and pecans that rely on the wind to pollinate them, that result in the sneezing and sniffling.
The flowers that are on oaks right now, (which are the main culprit in my yard) are called catkins.
They look like a tassel handing on the limbs beneath the leaves. A catkin is a cylindrical cluster of flowers without petals. The male catkins are the ones loaded with pollen. Different species produce different catkins. Here are some willow catkins loaded with pollen.
Catkins dangle down so they can catch any wind that blows their way so that they can share their pollen with the female blooms. Once this occurs (on oaks) small acorns begin to form.
But unfortunately that pollen doesn’t just go to female oak flowers. It also flies into our houses, on our cars and can get in your hair and on your clothing, which you then bring indoors. If you are allergic, you know what happens next. Allergies are a fact of life for the Carson clan, but for some amazing reason, I have not been afflicted this year—and I am not complaining.
We have a long track record at allergy clinics, and over the years their best recommendations (along with medication) are never to have your windows open in the house or car and minimize how much time you spend outside, particularly between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. when pollen counts are typically the highest. Even though I haven't quite followed those rules this year, I am allergy free (so far).
Once the yellow stops, then we deal with all the brown dried catkins dropping. They can be as thick on our deck in the spring as the leaves that drop in the fall. But trees are still a very good thing to have, and thankfully the pollen season doesn’t last too long.