This is the time when everything is covered in a fine yellow dust. Our walkways, cars, plants, and outdoor furniture look like a giant sifter in the sky has sprinkled yellow flour over the Eastern Shore. For those of us who love to open our windows to welcome in the fresh, spring air, this fine residue settles throughout our homes. We can even see it in the air.
It’s tree pollen season. So I went to the Internet to learn more about it. I discovered that most of the yellow powder that we are seeing is coming from pine trees. Scotch, loblolly, and cedar trees are working overtime to intersperse the air with a fine yellow dust.
Pollen is actually a plant’s male DNA that takes advantages of spring breezes to find a female part of the flower so that it can reproduce. The main job of pollen is to seed the next generation of trees and plants, but a new study from the University of Michigan and Texas A&M suggests that these grains might also seed clouds.
Pollen is not necessarily bad. It contains other nutrients and is a welcome addition to a compost pile. Bee pollen is being touted as a heathy supplement; but little scientific research supports this. Preliminary studies with very small sample sizes have shown benefits in PMS, prostate, and minimization of the effects of radiation on cancer patients.
For allergy sufferers, pollen is a not a welcome substance. But experts say that most of us are NOT allergic to our yellow powdery friend…instead we are allergic to the pollen that we don’t see. Our yellow dust is merely a marker for other nefarious pollens that like to mess with our immune system. Apparently, it is the oak trees, nut trees, and wax myrtles that are our real nemeses.
Airborne allergens have arrived early this year. And it suggests a long and unfortunate pollen allergy season. Tree pollen season usually ends by April, but the cool spring and mild winter are expected to prolong it into May.
More bad news. A recent article in Nature conclusively demonstrated that climate change will result in a significant increase in pollen.
So what to do? Pollen counts usually rise in the morning and reach their peak by midday or early afternoon. Weather forecasts provide pollen counts. AccuWeather predicts that May 2nd is going to be a doozy.
So we need to close the windows to the sweet spring breezes, shower frequently, and for those of us who suffer from allergies, rely on our antihistamine pills, eye drops, and nasal sprays.
Based on pollen counts to date, scientists predict that it is going to be a long, sneezy spring, summer, and fall.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.