Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pollen Nation

Here in Finland we have been enjoying a glorious, warm spring, already hitting daytime high in the 20s (70s Fahrenheit), with the gray and brown landscape left behind by melting snow rapidly morphing into brilliant shades of green.

Only, not everyone is completely enjoying this stunning and sunny transformation. As you would expect in a northern country where summers are short, Nature here is on a tight schedule once the long winter is over. All the plants and animals are in a hurry to make hay while the summer sun shines, especially the plants. With the coming of longer and warmer days, trees such the ubiquitous birch seem to leaf out overnight and release their pollen to the wind with a vengeance.

Anatomy of a spring-time nuisance,
Silver Birch (Betula pendula).
“Vengeance” is exactly how the early-spring spike in pollen must feel to the hundreds of thousands of Finns who suffer from allergies. The main culprits at the moment are birch and alder pollen, to be replaced later by grass as the biggest tormentor of noses, eyes and throats.

This year has been worse than normal for pollen. A thin, green layer of the stuff seems to coat all surfaces – like my car – left untouched by water or wet rags. We’ve had very little rain to wash the tiny floating particles from the air. Even people like me, who are luckily not normally affected by any kind pollen, are experiencing some reactions this spring. Others are suffering miserably.

The University of Turku, which monitors the pollen situation in Finland, has reported the highest levels here in almost twenty years. What’s more, as of last week, every part of the country is experiencing the highest levels of birch pollen, all at the same time. So, for now at least, the entire nation is suffering the effects of spring in runny-eyed solidarity. It might not cause anyone to wish for the return of winter, but maybe a few well-time spring showers would be, um, just what the doctor ordered.  

1 comment:

  1. I never had allergies until I hit my late-20s. Since then...damn the pollen! First time I experienced pollen allergies I was in Maine of all places. Apparently some kind of evergreen pollen was the culprit that first episode.

    We've had a bad time with pollen this year, too. But this wasn't the worst I've seen it--that would have to be last year. You could literally sweep it up into piles last year.