The pollen has settled in a thick layer of dust that coats all of Cumberland County. The cars are tinted yellow-green, and dried rivulets of pollen have formed in our driveway. Along with the pollen, I’ve started seeing oak catkins in the yard and street. If you live anywhere around here, you’ve probably noticed them too.
When I was little, I played with the spent tassels. I stripped them of their tiny pollen heads – leaving behind nothing but dust and limp strings. Back then, I had no idea what the catkins were – or how they worked. I wonder if I would’ve been less likely to play with them or more fascinated?
Catkins are dangling tassels of petal-less flowers. When the wind blows, the male releases pollen that drifts in the air to their female counterparts, where seeds are formed. Since pollination is wind-dependent, the males produce an overwhelming amount of pollen.
The oaks lining my street are loaded with strands of these pollen-spewing tassels. This time of year, they dry up and drop off the trees. They cling to windshield wipers and clog up the gutters. Brandon has already had to pull out the blower to clear them from the patio.
Most people don’t realize it, but beyond being messy – catkins are the culprit behind most sinus issues in the early spring. These discreet tassels fill the air with wind-borne pollen, triggering allergies in the unsuspecting passersby below. No wonder everybody’s sinuses are in overdrive!
Some people hate catkins so much they chop down the trees that drop the pollen heads all over their yards and sidewalks. I’m not one of those. Even if they give me a massive case of sniffles, I respect their place in the landscape. For all of the havoc they wreak on my sinuses, they’re just another little sign that spring has arrived.