Monday, April 15, 2013

Pollen Nation

Pollen is here.
And it’s here.

It’s in the water.

And it’s definitely in the air.


Every tree, shrub, and grass is in flower here.

 So pretty to look at, so painful to breathe.

In the early part of the 20th century, Phoenix was known as a haven for people with allergies and respiratory ailments, due to the clean, dry air. One hundred years and a million people later, we are known for the poor quality of our air, which seems to be comprised mostly of ozone, dust, pollen, and other large and small “particulates.”

I don’t think I’ve taken a normal breath since late February! Zyrtec, which has worked reliably for me for the last ten years, barely makes a dent in this season’s allergies. I’m steadily working my way through the pharmacy shelves, trying a new combination of antihistamine and decongestant every two weeks, hoping for the magic formula.

I studied pollination ecology a few years ago (thus the title of the post, from a very confusing phone conversation with my aunt). One of the many things I did was photograph these microscopic particles. Pollen is actually a beautiful thing, when it’s not wreaking havoc on your nasal membranes.

The pollen was dyed before mounting on a slide, to create contrast between the structures on the outer wall of the grain. Presumably this assists in identification, although I never got very good at the ID part of the job.

If you want to see some really beautiful photos of pollen, just Google “pollen photos” or “pollen microscopy.” You may have seen some in Nat Geo or similar magazines. The pictures taken with electron microscopes (very different from what I used) are fascinating.

I hope you enjoy your flowering season with minimal sneezing and wheezing.



  1. No allergies for us today. We got snowed on last night and there is more to come!

  2. Wow! Those are beautiful images! And for something that gets such a bad rap like pollen - it's nice to see them through rose colored glasses (quite literally). Hope you're not suffering too much longer. That first picture made me want to sneeze just looking at it!

    1. I'd probably be better off if I wasn't outside photgraphing the mess. ;)

  3. We've been going through this since January (Florida). It's just starting to subside.