We are all looking forward to the dust settling.
This season has been a tough one for anyone with hay fever, and for everyone who is tired of being covered with that potent yellow (and sometimes green, white, red, orange, blue or purple) powder.
Pollen has been plentiful this year, and allergy sufferers have reason to grumble (and sneeze and sniffle). A confluence of conditions could be the cause of our complaints.
A cold winter and cool spring delayed many of the plants that produce the preponderance of pollen this time of year. In general, trees are to blame for the plentiful pollen in the spring, while grasses dominate pollen distribution in the summer. With the late flowering of the trees, though, the release of pollen from the trees is overlapping with the grass pollen release, giving us a double dose of that dastardly dust.
Oak, birch, pine and grass pollen are the troublemakers right now. But other plant pollens will take their place, so relief is elusive.
To make matters worse, the rain has refused to fall. During a typical May, Edgartown averages 3.5 inches of rain. May of 2014 yielded less than just three-quarters of an inch of rain. Precipitation will help wash away the dust that has descended on every outdoor surface, and I hope by the time you read this, the water will have worked its wonders.
Until then, follow a few obvious bits of advice to lessen your powdery load. Keeping your windows and doors closed will reduce the amount of pollen that enters your home. And as wonderful as it is (and energy efficient) to dry your clothes on the line, resist the urge. Especially sheets, which will become covered in pollen and could lead to many sleepless and sneezy nights. Exercise or spend time outdoors in the early morning or evening, since the middle of the day can be the most difficult for those who suffer.
Also keep an eye on the daily pollen counts and plan accordingly. Many weather forecasts include pollen counts to help you plan your day. Pollen counts are simply a measure of the amount of pollen in the air. The number of grains of pollen are collected on sticky “rotorods’ exposed to air, and measured in grains per cubic meter of air per 24 hours. These numbers are converted to a scale from 0 to 12, with pollen amounts increasing up the scale. This week’s counts were in the high nines.
For all of your trouble and discomfort, blame the boys. Pollen is essentially plant sperm released from the male parts of a flower (or cone) that are looking to find and fertilize the female plant parts. Wind or insects are the usual transportation mechanism that helps plants propagate.
So, since we need successful pollination for our food, flowers and flora, we will just have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off.
Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown and author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature.