Monday, September 08, 2008

What's That Gold Stuff Tickling My Nose?

It's allergy season. There's pollen everywhere.

The goldenrod is blooming....

But WAIT!!!!

Is it really goldenrod that is causing the problem? It gets blamed all the time. Even my father refuses to have goldenrod in the garden because it "causes his hayfever."
The flower color is gold, but aren't flower colors designed to attract insects for pollination? Why would goldenrod put out the energy to grow golden flowers if it was scattering its pollen to the wind for pollination?

The truth is that goldenrod pollen is too heavy to be carried by the wind. Goldenrod DOES rely on insects for pollination. Instead of producing huge quantities of pollen to scatter widely, goldenrod spends its energy producing flowers that attract those insects.

On the other hand, there are basic green plants growing all around, usually in disturbed areas, that are busy producing green flowers right now. Those unobtrusive green flowers (that I'd be willing to bet you've never noticed) are putting out massive quantities of pollen, because insects don't notice them either.

What are these drab green plants? We know them by the name "ragweed," if we know them at all. They don't care if we know them, and they don't care if anyone notices them. The wind takes care of their pollination needs, and our noses and sinuses are often our only awareness that they exist.

Here's a closeup of giant ragweed flowers beginning to bloom. I've really become rather intrigued by their exotic "Japanese-pagoda-goes-green" looks.

Part of the reason I'm noticing them so much these days is that we have a bumper crop of giant ragweed in the Beyond. It towers a foot or more above my head as I walk the paths, and I've taken many interesting pictures of insects hiding in its foliage.

Luckily I'm not allergic to ragweed pollen. In fact, as I watch the flowers form, ripen and eventually morph into ragweed seed, I'm smiling. Ragweed seed is very high in protein and an excellent wildlife food. Our gourmet breakfast bar for wildlife will be open and wellstocked when winter's cold comes calling in a few months.

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