Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Yellow Smoke

Wild Plants and Wooly Bears

Driving along a back road a few days ago, it seemed that my glasses had become foggy. But that wasn’t it. Then I realized that the air was filled with smoke. But it didn’t smell smoky. Besides, it was yellow smoke. What makes yellow smoke? Then the answer became clear. With each gust of wind, white pines released a heaping measure of yellow pollen.

Later, back home, I sat on my back deck and watched the tall pines behind my house. Each gust of wind precipitated a burst of yellow pollen, fine, smoky dust. Then a realization struck me. The pollen must not become available all at once, but in stages, over a fairly lengthy period of time.

Pines produce pollen on male cones. These are smaller than female cones and in evidence primarily at the start of the flowering stage. So we have male cones to thank for the yellow coating on our cars, picnic tables, roofs and even the surface of ponds and lakes. And, of course, this pollen provokes allergy symptoms in susceptible humans and probably animals as well.

Soon the time of “yellow smoke” will end and we will forget all about it. Until next year, that is, when the cycle repeats itself.

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