Pollen Allergy: What Made It A Human Contributed Problem ?

Season changes are hard to deal with for many individuals. And just because of the change in humidity and temperature, but also due to the reproductive cycle of the plants. Yup, the infamous ‘allergen’ pollen, which causes pollen allergy. Infact, some people tend to have allergies across a large period over the year, as for various plants release pollen at different seasons. And a serious thing to note is that allergic reactions can get real bad real fast. Especially for people with respiratory problems. And you know what’s funny, we humans might be contributing to this problem. Now, I know what are you thinking, those are plants, how are we responsible? But in a way we are. And I would like to explain how….

Basic Biology

Since plants cannot move, they have altogether different mechanisms for reproduction and species continuation. On the basis of presence and functionality of the reproductive parts on a plant, they can be divided into monoecious (same plant has both male and female flowers, may or may not self fertilize) and dioecious (plant can have only one type of flower male or female). Flowers, in turn, can be classified into three categories: staminate (contains only male reproductive structures), pistillate/carpellate (contains only female reproductive structures) and hermaphrodite (contains both in the same flower). So, needless to day, some monoecious and all the dioecious plants have to have some methods involving external agencies for the male gametes to reach the female ones.

One of the most common dispersive factors for plant reproduction is air. Since the male gametes, better known as pollen, tend to be quite smaller in comparison to the female gamete, ovule. Hence, the pollen are usually the ones that commute for the fertilization to happen. And the air borne pollen is very light, for they sometimes need to travel large distances. Needless to say, they tend to remain in the atmosphere for long periods of time. Pollens are also dispersed by animals, a lion’s share of them being insects. Again, indirectly, they go back in the atmosphere. The inclusion and buildup of pollen in the atmosphere increases the susceptibility to the pollen allergy.

Rampant Pollens

Plantation drives are now being organized on large scales to preserve the environment. Plants in the commercial and residential areas are a must now. And in planned cities, especially in developed countries, separate areas are demarcated for developing a natural ecosystem. Apart from the uses to the human beings, these are also inviting grounds for the local fauna. But human beings can be honest, sometimes to comfort seeking. Hence, when the arborists discovered that having male plants in the urban regions will be less maintenance costly and easier to clean up (in comparison to female trees shedding flowers and seeds), male plants became an immediate and dominant presence in the urban botanical landscape.

This phenomenon of ‘Botanical Sexism’, as termed by the horticultural expert Tom Ogren, has taken an ugly turn in U.S. Male plants were given that much of preference that the monoecious plants were altered as to produce only male reproductive counterparts. Due to overpopulation of male trees, tons and tons of unchecked pollen is dispersed in the atmosphere. And with no female trees in the vicinity to trap these pollen grains, things went awry. An overdose of pollen has triggered an increase in the amount of population suffering from allergic reactions, and also has contributed to a rising number of cases of hayfever and asthma patients in many developed nations.

Whew, the things favoritism might do…

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