Does pollen make you sneeze?
Bees, beetles, and butterflies may love to eat pollen, but people can suffer mightily as flowering plants begin their rites of spring.
Pollen is the plant equivalent of sperm. These tiny, often yellow, particles fertilize the ovule to create seeds and fruit.
A flower can be male or female or both. The male stamen consists of a filament that holds up the anther, which contains pollen. The female pistil is made up of the receptive stigma, a tube-like style, and the ovary, at the base, which contains the ovule, or embryo sac. When all these things work together properly, pollination occurs.
But what makes pollen so problematic?
Many people mistakenly blame goldenrod for their allergies. I say mistakenly because goldenrod pollen is spread by animals. Most allergies are caused by airborne pollen, such as ragweed and grass. Many trees, such as oak, hickory and birch also cause allergic reactions.
The real problem with pollen is that it is incredibly sticky, and many varieties are spiky, too. That’s great if you’re a receptive female flower, but it stinks if you’re allergic. You can’t just wipe it off. At the height of spring, when airborne pollen is being flung to every breeze, it gets on everything: your clothes, your face, even your eyelashes! The only way to get rid of it is to wash with soap and water.
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