March Madness (Montana Allergy Bracket)
It’s that time of year again. “March Madness” is upon us! March is the beginning of the tree pollen season in many states including Montana. The trees begin to release pollen that can be carried for miles. Western Montana lies in the Western Cordillera floristic zone. This zone extends from northern New Mexico and Arizona to southwestern Canada.
The most important allergenic trees in this zone include:
- Acer: Maple and Box Elder trees. The pollen can be released even before the leaves are seen. Maples are one of the first trees to flower in early spring and timing depends on weather conditions, latitude and elevation.
- Alnus: Alders are in the same family as birch trees. Each catkin (elongated spike-like cluster of tiny flowers) on the tree can release over 4 million pollen grains!
- Populus: Cottonwood, poplar, willow and aspen make up this family. They are wind pollinated and frequently found along streams.
- Quercus: Oak trees shed more pollen than all other plants where the trees are abundant. Oaks are divided into red and white (like wine!) and in the western states have traits of both.
- Pinus: Pine has “winged” pollen grains that look like “Mickey Mouse” ears under the microscope. Many pines produce a lot of pollen but the pollen lacks an “excitatory component” thus not triggering allergies.
- Ulmus: Elm (Chinese and Siberian Elm) were introduced into the region west of the Rockies. They bloom in March and April. A fungus known as Dutch elm disease has attacked American Elm trees since 1930 and drastically decreased their numbers.
Under the microscope, some of the tree pollen actually looks like a basketball!
If you suffer from tree pollen allergies, see an allergist. An allergist is uniquely qualified and specifically trained to diagnose and tree environmental allergies.
This educational information does not take the place of your physician’s advice.