A wet spring has created the massive amount of yellow spruce pollen covering everything in sight and sparking the allergy season.
Spruce trees in Laramie have begun pollinating for the year, dumping the tiny specks into the air and hopefully finding another tree’s cones to fertilize, Laramie City Arborist Randy Overstreet said.
“The pollen cones are tiny little male cones spread throughout the tree,” he said. “The female cones are higher up in the tree so they don’t self-pollinate.”
The female cones are what you see underneath the tree later in the year after pollination.
The trees use the wind to send their pollen to other trees, requiring them to make large amounts to ensure it reaches where necessary, explained Dorothy Tuthill, associate director of the University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute.
“Other plants that flower primarily use insects to pollinate, so they are much more strategic in what they produce,” she said. “Wind pollination uses light and dry pollen to easily travel.”
While recent rains put a damper on the yellow dust, Overstreet said more will come.
“More wind will come and blow out more pollen from the little cones,” he said. “It’ll continue for another week or so.”
Unusual spring weather that brought plenty of moisture but no late freezes is likely the cause for the large burst of pollen, Overstreet said.
“There were no freezes to kill those pollen cone buds,” he said.
For folks with allergies, this marks the beginning of the pollen season. Joanne Steane, director of UW Student Health Service, suggested several ways people can combat hay fever.
“One way to alleviate allergies is to stay indoors with the windows closed and hopefully use air conditioning if it’s available,” she said. “If you do go out and about, taking a shower before you go to sleep to wash the pollen out of your hair and body can also help.”
There are medication and other treatment methods as well, including flushing the sinuses with a saline solution or using antihistamines to reduce nose irritation.
“There are now steroid nasal sprays available over-the-counter to stop runny or stuffed noses, but the problem is they don’t work immediately,” Steane said. “It takes about a week to a week-and-a-half to take full effect.”
She also warned against using decongesting nasal sprays for more than four days to avoid overreactions from the body and other negative side effects.
While spruce pollens will likely dissipate in a week, other pollens will just be coming online, Tuthill said.
“A lot of people are allergic to grasses, and those are starting to come into bloom,” she said. “Then sage brush starts in July and August, and those are wind pollinated.”
People with spruce allergies might also want to avoid the mountains, Overstreet said, as the trees in higher elevation are just starting to release their pollen.