Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fall Allergies

For the last week or so, I've been sneezing, coughing and waking up with some congestion. Keeping this in mind, I decided to look in my yard and see what plants may be causing these symptoms, commonly known as allergies. During my investigation, I discovered some myths about some plants and that I knew very little about others that cause fall allergies.

Above is a photo of a Jerusalem Artichoke plant. Every fall these beautiful blooms shower my yard lasting for several months. The Jerusalem Artichoke is a member of the sunflower family, native to eastern North America and has no relation to Jerusalem or the artichoke.

Instead, the name evolved from the french word for sunflower, named in 1605 by French explorer, Samuel de Champlain when he found this plant at Cape Cod cultivated by native Americans. The artichoke part came when he noted the tubers grown and prepared for consumption reminded him of  true artichoke plants used in French and European recipes.

I found no indication that the Jerusalem Artichoke plants in my yard caused allergy symptoms, only that today it's tubers are used as a dietary fiber in food manufacturing and has the potential for ethanol fuel production.

Another plant prevalent in my yard and seen along most roads and highways is the Golden Rod, pictured above. This plant is a member of the Aster family and has approximately, 100 species of different blooming plants in it's family. I've always suspected Golden Rods blooming in the fall signaled the start of the fall allergy season, but, I discovered this yellow weed in my yard and on the sides of roadways, gets a "bad rap," instead ragweed is the culprit.

Golden Rod is edible and often used to make teas. It's good for bees, allowing them to make some of the strongest and darkest honey of any flowers. Golden Rod is the state flower for Kentucky and Nebraska. It has been used in the production of kidney tonic and Thomas Edison experimented with the leaves in the production of rubber. The blooms are too heavy for the wind to pick up and carry through the air, dispelling my idea that it is a major cause of fall allergies.

You might look at the picture above and think it's a ragweed plant, but it's not. I was totally surprised to see what a ragweed plant looked like and I couldn't find one in my yard, therfore, I couldn't show you a ragweed plant.

I don't know the name of this weed but initially, I thought it was a bitter weed, but it's not that either.
Growing up we had bitter weed in our cow pasture. The milk cows would munch on it and our milk tasted this day I don't drink cow's milk.

So in fall what does cause the sneezing, the wheezing, coughing and congestion?

If your prone to allergies (I'm not), it could be your most loved four footed friend like Todd.

Or a new garden kitty like Mr. Basil.

But more than likely, it's a combination of things. In the fall, male plants (I hate to blame this on the the man...he-he..) release tiny cells, or pollen into the air for a last ditch effort to reproduce as the season changes. In a chemical reaction to these male invaders, antibodies or histamines are introduced into our blood streams triggering runny noses, itchy eyes, ear infections and other symptoms of allergies.

Age, heredity, location and weather, also add to allergy problems, let's don't forget dust, mold and mites. So basically, the fall season is no worse than the spring season for allergies. Just like spring, trees and grasses cause a majority of allergies in the fall.

Hay! I already feel better and until next time........

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith

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