(HOST) Hot, dry, late-summer days are powerful pollen producers and commentator Henry Homeyer has some advice for those who suffer from hay fever.
(HOMEYER) Golden rod, that tall wild flower with wonderful yellow blossoms, has gotten a bad rap. It’s considered by many to be the cause of their allergies at this time of year. For most of us, how- ever, golden rod is not the problem.
At this time of year ragweed is flowering – and sending it’s fine, wind-borne pollen out to tickle your nose. Ragweed is a pioneer plant, growing alongside roads or in other places where the soil has been disturbed. It’s botanical name is Ambrosia, which is quite the misnomer for allergy sufferers. There are several different species of it growing in Vermont.
Plants that cause allergies generally depend on the wind to spread their pollen. Goldenrod’s pollen is larger and heavier than that of ragweed, and transported by bees – while ragweed’s is tiny and wind borne. Still, golden rod is related to ragweed, and I’ve read that of those people who react to ragweed, some 30 percent will also react to goldenrod.
So what can you do, as a gardener, to enjoy your time outside during pollen season? First, you should avoid working outdoors in the morning on hot, dry days. That’s when lots of pollen will be in the air. Plants tend to release pollen in the morning, so by evening much of it will have reached its destination.
Working in a drizzle or just after a rain is good. Most plants seem to know that a good rain will knock their pollen to the ground, so they don’t release it on gray or rainy days.
Lastly, learn to recognize ragweed, and pursue it mercilessly. Ragweed comes in many forms, from a foot tall to six feet or more. It’s leaves are usually a silvery-gray, but can be a medium green. Its long leaves are attached to the stem and intricately divided. Its branches look upward, reaching toward the sky.
The culprits – the flowers that is – don’t look like flowers at all, but like little green balls the size of BBs. They stand straight up above the foliage, all the better to catch a breeze and find your nose. Small children have been stripping then off and throwing them at each other for centuries, I suspect.
Ragweed is an annual plant, and easily uprooted. I don’t recom- mend composting the uprooted plants, as the seeds might survive composting and end up in your garden. If you suffer from allergies, you might get someone else to pull the plants and send them off to the landfill.
Of course, ragweed pollen can fly quite a distance, so merely uprooting yours won’t solve the problem. There really isn’t a solution other than moving north of the Arctic Circle – but remember they can’t grow sweet corn and tomatoes there, either.
This the gardening guy, Henry Homeyer in Cornish Flat, N.H.
Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer and columnist. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.