Issue: February 10, 1997
Cut trees because of hay fever?Question:
I have pollen allergies and suffer hay fever attacks frequently (spring, summer, and fall). Some friends told me I should cut down my trees because they cause hay fever. Is that true?Answer:
Certain trees can cause problems for hay fever sufferers, but while suffering from hay fever, don't forget the benefits that trees provide. Trees produce shade and cooling in the summer. They break the wind and reduce heating costs in the winter. Trees absorb gaseous pollutants produced by our automobiles, trucks, busses, industry, home heating and other aspects of modern life. They also cleanse our air of particulate pollutants, naturally produced dust, dust from construction, and smoke particles. Trees beautify our home landscapes and city and town environments. They provide protection and nesting environments for wildlife. Tree roots stabilize the soil, preventing wind and water erosion.
As I stated above, some trees produce pollen which can cause hay fever attacks. Of these, some are worse than others. There are some trees which do not cause hay fever. This is also true of shrubs as well. Plants such as grass, and many native plants found in New Mexico, can also be hay fever pollen producers. But as with trees, not all are problems and not all are equally problematic. A solution to the problem is to plant those which are least problematic and to avoid planting so many of them that even the less-offensive plants produce enough pollen, due to their concentration, to become a problem. In that case the problem is really not the trees, but rather the people who planted unwisely.
The answer to your question of whether or not you should remove your trees depends on what trees you have and whether or not they are the source of your hay fever problems. Perhaps your problems are due to pollen blown from weeds or native plants. Also, if the trees are part of your problem, are their contributions to your hay fever enough to negate their positive contributions? If you decide the trees are a significant problem and must remove them, consider replacing them with other trees which will not be a problem. Then you can continue to receive the benefits that trees provide us in our challenging New Mexico climate.
Flowering trees with large, showy flowers produce pollen but depend on bees, birds, and other animals to carry their pollen from flower to flower. Their pollen is heavy and doesn't travel far with the wind. They are good candidates for replacement trees. Flowering trees are often, though not always, smaller than our common shade trees. If you need a larger shade tree, have your allergist determine which of the larger shade trees will cause problems for you. Then plant those which are determined to be less of a problem. Avoiding planting only one type of tree if you plant several, and try to use trees different from those that your neighbors plant. By planting a diversity of tree types, you can help avoid creating a high pollen concentration that can make the good trees into problems. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service or Parks Department for trees which will do well in your area.