Monday, April 21, 2014

amid another vortex!

A billion billion billion pollen grains rain down on me.

It's official! NBC News has announced we're in a pollen vortex. And this comes on the heels of a winter with several polar vortexes. 

Either it's the classic overuse of the word "vortex," or for the nonce, we're in Old Testament trouble. The reports say the lingering winter has delayed the trees, so they are all casting their bread upon the water at the same time (that's from Ecclesiastes, also Old Testament), i.e. a modern day pollen vortex of biblical proportion.

Truth is: tree sex is messy, messy, messy.

Plants have a big problem when it comes to reproduction. The males and females cannot cozy up to one another. Since they are stationary, how do the male pollen grains and the female eggs get together? Somehow they need help. Basically, either a creature like an insect carries the pollen or the wind blows the male particles.

If a tree has a showy flower, like a dogwood or apple, then they rely on insects. That's why they have the flashy blossoms, to attract the pollen carriers. Generally, this pollen doesn’t bother most allergy sufferers because it's heavy and sticky in order to bond itself to the insects' bodies. It doesn't float around freely for us weakling humans to inhale.

Imagine a snout full of these prickly male gametes!
The trees that rely on the wind for pollination, like the maples, birches, cedars, hickories, oaks and pines, do not have showy flowers. They don't need them. But, these trees have to produce tons of tiny, lightweight, barb-covered pollen because the wind is a sloppy messenger and a pretty untargeted way to move things around. It's actually quite messy.

It is estimated that a single male flower—called a catkin—on a birch can produce 5.5 million grains of pollen. And, there can be thousands of male catkins on a single tree. Most of this pollen seems to find either my car, turning it yellow, or my sinuses, turning them achy. 

Or as my doctor once told me, the number one symptom of pollen allergies is lethargy. 

I think anon, I'll take another nap.

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