Which flowers and trees cause the most allergies?

April 8, 2006 at 12:00 pm (Uncategorized)

We are looking at planting a butterfly garden in our front yard to fill in some bare patches where two dead trees were cut down in the fall. I was researching perennial plants, and my wise husband said we ought to find out which of them were the most allergenic, so we could plan on NOT putting anything in our front yard that might make life hard for me and the boys (I live on Zyrtec this time of year).

Boy, is he smart!

Here's a great article I found on the HGTV website:

Home & Garden Television
Allergy Alert
Gardening by the Yard : Episode GBY-613 — More Projects »

If you're sneezing a lot in your yard, check to see if you have any of these allergy-causing culprits. Fall means cooler temperatures, more abundant rainfall, fewer pests and gorgeous leaf colors; on the other hand, fall is a time when the air is filled with all sorts of things that cause allergies. Major culprits are pollen, mold spores and, if rainfall has been sparse, dust. Master gardener Paul James shares the reasons certain plants cause allergic reactions as well as some natural methods of allergy control.

Only male plants produce pollen, which means that only male plants can produce the symptoms associated with pollen allergies. It's not always easy to identify male and female plants, and in many cases there's no real way of knowing what sex your plant/tree is, since gender is rarely indicated on nursery tags. To further complicate the matter, you can't always tell the sex of a plant just by looking. Here are a few general guidelines to help you sort it out:

Within the world of gardening there are male plants, female plants and plants that are both male and female.

1. Monoecious plants have separate male and female flowers on the same plant–examples include oak trees (figure A) and corn. The male tassels at the top of the corn plant (figure B) contain the pollen that floats down to pollinate the female ears of corn. Because monoecious plants often rely on the wind to move pollen from the male portion of the plant to the female portion, they are notorious for causing allergies.
2. Dioecious plants–plants that are either all male or all female–also rely on wind to transfer pollen from a male plant to a female plant.

3. Many plants, such as roses (figure C), have what's called perfect flowers, which means they contain both male and female parts; as a result, the pollen doesn't have to travel far–this means that these plants rarely cause allergies.

The only way to know the sex of a given plant is to consult references, but there are clues to look for that will give you an idea about whether or not a plant is likely to cause allergies.

1. Small flowers with little color tend to cause more allergies than large, brightly-colored flowers.

2. Off-white and greenish-colored flowers cause more allergies than all the other flower colors combined (figure D).

3. Trumpet-shaped flowers (figure E) seldom cause allergies because their pollen is held deep within the flower.

4. Fragrant plants–as a rule–don't produce as many pollen allergies, but they may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to certain odors.

You don't have to plant female plants exclusively if you suffer from pollen allergies–that might result in a pretty boring landscape, and female trees can produce all sorts of messy seeds and fruit. Instead, follow these few rules to cut back on your allergy suffering:

1. Avoid planting the most notorious pollen producers, like goldenrod (figure F) (see list below).
2. Create as much diversity in the garden as possible.

3. Stay out of the garden on windy days.

4. Avoid planting pollen-producing plants near areas where you spend a lot of time or near windows that you like to open on nice days.

5. If you're allergic to grass pollen, cut the grass and weeds before they have time to flower.

Mold is another cause of allergies, and you can usually find plenty of it in the garden. The good news is that mold can be somewhat controlled by making sure that your landscape gets plenty of sunlight and good air circulation. The bad news is that one of the key features of any good garden–the compost pile–is also a notorious source of mold. Molds are beneficial catalysts in the decomposition process, so have someone else turn your pile and spread your compost if you're allergic to mold.

Worst trees and plants for allergy sufferers:

almond
ash (male)
Arizona cypress
aspen (male)
bald cypress
black acacia
catalpa
Chinese elm
cottonwood
elm
eucalyptus
fringe tree (male)
Kentucky coffee (male)
mango
mountain laurel
mulberry
oaks
olive
Osage orange (male)
pecan
poplar (male)
privet (male)
red cedar
Russian olive
silver maple (male)
smoke tree
sumac (male)
sycamore
walnut
willows (male)
zelkova

Allergy-causing flowers and grasses:

Artemisia
Bahia grass
Bermuda grass
blue fescue
bluegrass
buttercup
castor bean
centipede grass
fountain grass
gamma grass
goldenrod
orchard grass
sedge (Carex)
Timothy grass

Gardening by the Yard : Episode GBY-613
• Growing Fall Veggies
• Allergy Alert
• Clay Soil
• Stumps and Roots
• Asters

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3 Comments

  1. Treat Your Senses With Aromatic Dallas Landscaping Plants said,

    [...] of flowering plants (such as roses) that don’t spew too much pollen into the air. A little research will pay off in ensuring that you can enjoy your “aromatherapy garden”. The other concern with [...]

  2. Seasonal allergy relief is easier than you think! « Rotten Mold Issues said,

    [...] most common pollen allergies are [...]

  3. Seasonal allergy relief is easier than you think! : Allergies Causes, Care and Treatments said,

    [...] most common pollen allergies are [...]

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