That Breeze In Trees Triggers Sexy Pollen

Posted: April 06, 1998

Pollen isn't just the stuff that coats our windshields with a fine powder and makes some of us sneeze uncontrollably in the warm weather months; it's also pure male sex.

The birds and the wheeze, if you will.

Pollen is ``tiny little grains which represent the male half of the fertilization process,'' said Dr. Michael Phillips, a professor, clinician and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania's allergy and immunolgy department. ``It's spread to the female half, where fertilization takes place. It's very analogous to the human process.''

Formed in the stamen of the flower, the pollen that's most prevalent in the area this time of year comes from juniper, oak and elm trees, which aren't well-known for their flowers.

``Very few people can tell you what the flower of an oak tree looks like, or an elm,'' said Phillips. ``They're tiny little things, but in the spring there's a huge amount of pollen coming out of those trees.''

Pollen is spread either by wind or by insects. Interestingly, people with allergies are usually allergic to the pollen that's airborne, not insect-borne.

``Insects spread pollens that are heavy, and that stick,'' Phillips said. ``People aren't usually very allergic to dogwood trees or roses.''

In fact, the more flamboyant the flower on the plant, the less likely humans are going to be allergic to it.

``You usually don't have to be afraid of being allergic to plants with big, fancy flowers,'' Phillips said.

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