April Breezes Bring Spring Sneezes

SCIENCE OF LIVING

With spring winds come billions of flying male pollen grains looking for an inviting spot to land. In March and April, nearly invisible clouds of pollen waft free from hanging catkins and scentless, petalless green flowers and are scattered up to 100 yards from parent trees. When these anemophilous, or wind-pollinated, trees leaf out, you know that their pollen-shedding time has finally come and gone. Blame beech, birch, poplar, oak, and other common forest trees for your spring allergies. (A single birch catkin can produce 2 to 5 million grains of pollen.) Fruit trees and other ornamentals, which have larger and fewer pollen grains, use their colorful, scented flowers to charm insects into helping them reproduce.

PHOTO (COLOR): Nose pricker: When pollen is magnified, you can see why it irritates your snoot.

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