The “Pollen” in Pollinators

This time of year is tough for allergy sufferers who are also gardeners. As lovely as the weather is, it can be difficult to get outdoors to garden if you are plagued by seasonal allergies.

Fortunately there are things you can do to minimize the symptoms (other than relying on your medication of choice or allergy shots).

The first is simple avoidance, of course. That means staying out of that garden when pollen counts are highest. And unfortunately, pollen counts are highest at some of the most beautiful times of the day: first thing in the morning and at dusk.

The other thing to make sure to do is to keep the windows closed, especially on days with those lovely late spring breezes. Otherwise you are likely to find every surface of your home coated with the very pollen you are trying most to avoid. You can open your windows later this summer–if weather permits–when airborne pollen subsides.

When you do go outside to garden, make sure you shower after returning. This will wash the airborne pollen off you and out of your hair.


Notice the tire treads and the footprints on the driveway? They’re made in pollen! This is pollen from Eastern White pine (pinus strobus) which is entirely wind pollinated. It’s a heavy yellow pollen and the grains are far too large to be the cause of allergies–although the do coat everything and the can get in your nose and make you sneeze just from the irritation!


Here is a “puddle” of it after I watered some pots nearby. Luckily this only goes on for about a week or so.

But one thing to remember: All our pollinators that are visiting our flowers are not the cause of the your sneezing and itchy eyes or scratchy throat. The pollen that is carried by those pollinators is too heavy to be airborne–that’s why it needs insects.

Insect pollination is entirely different from airborne pollination. That’s why you can safely grow colorful flowers. They lure the insect pollinators with pollen that is too “heavy” to become airborne and therefore it is rarely a problem for allergy sufferers.

After all, the major sources of allergens are trees, grasses, ragweed and mold. No one ever heard of being allergic to roses, hydrangeas, black-eyed susans or peonies! (Unless of course you have an allergy to fragrance!)

2 thoughts on “The “Pollen” in Pollinators

  1. The Chatsworth Lady June 5, 2016 / 12:28 pm

    oh gosh, can I ever relate. My garden is overrun with weeds because I have not been able to work outside at all during the pollen season from the D.O.s (Damned Oaks) to which I never knew I was allergic until moving here. I cannot take any allergy meds and so have to stay indoors with windows closed and air purifiers running.

    Last week we had a heatwave and I turned on the AC for the first time only to discover that it wasn’t working. Had to wait a week for a service call during which the daytime temps in the house topped 80F. I had no choice but to open the windows in the evenings to try to get in some cooler air but doing so played hell with my allergies as you can imagine. AC is fixed now ($433 later!!!!!) and I think the DOs are finally done. But gads! the WEEDS!!!!!! 😦

  2. gardendaze June 5, 2016 / 7:02 pm

    Ack! This too happened to us. I think my only blessing is that I do have allergy meds that work somewhat. But otherwise the whole story is pretty much the same. And never mind the weeds. I think it took me months to get that pine pollen out of the house. I was washing walls, ceilings, floors, bedding and stuff was still coming up yellow. Ugh!

    Bring on summer!


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