Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tiny Seeds of Summer

In the last week or so, another little sign of seasonal change has been in the air. Literally. It’s hard to miss the flecks of brown stuff floating on the breeze and filtering in through our open windows to settle on everything from desktops to bedspreads. Outside it sometimes looks like a barely visible snowstorm.

These tiny, winged bits of flotsam are birch-tree seeds, the result of this spring’s prolific output of pollen.

Since they don’t affect anyone’s nose, throat or lungs, birch seeds are not much of a topic of conversation. As you could imagine. I usually don’t give them much thought, except this year, which is seeing a “crop” much bigger (in a relative sense) than normal.

Lately, they are hard to miss, as tiny as they are. Besides finding these flea-sized seeds sprinkled around the house, I see them littering walking paths and accumulating along sidewalks, where even miniature “seed drifts” sometimes form.

The fact that there’s an exceptional amount of these tiny flakes of biomass all around us only hammers home a fact no one here could escape anyway – summer, as it always does, is coming to an end. 

Birch seeds.


  1. The farther north one goes, the closer to a kind of monoculture one gets when it comes to trees. I would assume that Finland doesn't have a wide variety of tree species. Quite a far cry from the Cohuttas where there were likely three (or more) times as many species of trees in that one mountain range than in all of Europe.

  2. I don't know about all of Europe, you may be right. But it's true that here in the north there's not nearly as much tree diversity as in the Appalachians. Finland has fewer than 50 tree species (in the most forested country in the world). And of those only 3 are really predominant: spruce, Scots pine, and birch. Oaks are rare, if you can imagine that. We have one in our yard and I'm very happy about that.

  3. Thank you for clearing up this mystery for me.I'm in the UK (Manchester) and for the last few years we have had these 'storms' of tiny seeds. I had no idea what they were but guessed they were coming from trees as they are so prolific. We live right next to a park which was re-landscaped 7 years ago and now have different trees near to our house. Sadly they chopped down some old poplar, sycamore and oak trees and re-planted with others, some of which are birch.