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A Yellow Dust Storm: Here It Comes

By Tom Poland
web posted March 27, 2015

LIFE DOWN SOUTH – Soon our part of the South will look as if a yellow dust storm rages across the land. I say bring it on. One frigid February night, I told a friend I couldn’t wait to see robins, daffodils, and pine pollen. Soon, I’ll get my wish. I look forward to rinsing off my car, deck, and patio.

I know a lot of people hate pine pollen. Not me, as winter invariably gives me the flu, bronchitis, or sinusitis. When I see the pines puffing up with pollen I know warmer weather is upon us. All those little stamens (Mom calls them worms) swell up and soon here it comes drifting about like fine, fine cornmeal but flour is more like it. In fact, “pollen” is Latin for “flour.”

We sure get a lot of pine pollen each spring. Pines rule much of the South and with them comes all that pollen. I decided to educate myself about pine pollen. I did a bit of research and came up with some interesting information. During late March and early April’s peak pollen season, pines shed millions of pounds of pollen into the air. Most of it, to the annoyance of many, coats cars, decks, patios, and driveways, just about anything open to breezes. And no wonder. Each male part of the pines, the “worms,” release six million grains of pollen. Cone spring, we find ourselves living in the midst of carousing woodlands for the trees they are partying and reproducing. As the party continues, it keeps falling and blowing about. A bit of rain flushes it into the streets and you see it swirling about in lemon-colored puddles like spilled yellow paint.

Each spring I joke that there ought to be some ways to make money off pine pollen. As abundant and free as it is, you’d think some folks would have found commercials uses for it. Well guess what, they have.

Turns out the Chinese consider pine pollen powder a great dietary supplement. According to the marketing copy from some so-called health food distributors, pine pollen contains hormones and a lot of nutrients and amino acids. They claim pine pollen has more than 200 fully bioactive nutrients the body needs. Something in pine pollen, they say, improves the body’s metabolism.

Some other research I dug up claims pine pollen fights fatigue, improves memory, relieves headaches, and improves the organs’ vitality. It deceases cholesterol (the bad kind I would hope) and helps prevent artery and heart disease. Moreover, pine pollen powder helps prevent aging. Just makes you want to step outside and open your mouth doesn’t it.

Pine pollen, being the tree’s male seed, contains significant amounts of testosterone. According to some research sources, it’s one of the most potent, non-prescribed substances when it comes to steroids. All that’s hard to believe isn’t it. Of course, the pine pollen “powder” as it’s called is processed into health food supplements. It’s not like you can stand around in April with your mouth open and get all the benefits that easily. In fact, lest some of you feel experimental, do not ingest pine pollen at all. I repeat: do not eat, sniff, or consume pine pollen in any way whatsoever. There, no lawsuits.

This time of year pine pollen catches a lot of blame for allergies. We see it everywhere and it seems logical to believe it’s the culprit behind our sneezes, itchy eyes, running noses, and watery eyes. Its clinging, coating presence on everything in its path happens for a simple reason: it’s too heavy to hang in the air very long. It’s the fine pollen from other trees and plants that mostly cause allergies.

I suppose we could claim pine pollen as “Southern snow.” The heavy doses we get each spring are similar to snow in one way. One night in the midst of the annual yellow dusting I grilled salmon on my deck. The next morning animal tracks in the pollen covered the decking boards. That masked bandit of the night, the raccoon, had walked all over the deck, attracted by the aroma of salmon. The tracks in the pollen reminded me of the animal tracks I saw behind my home in Georgia long ago when a dusting of snow revealed animal’s nocturnal wanderings. I washed the tracks and the pollen away but the pollen soon returned. It’s persistent.

Once our pines are done partying, the pollen is gone with the wind, but it will be back next spring, an annual rite that’s proof Old Man Winter has packed up and headed to the southern hemisphere, and that suits me fine.

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