Welcome to The Pollening

Welcome to The Pollening, one of the dozen or so unpredictably predictable seasons of Upstate New York.  Back when I was a kid, I remember my father's old-school hack when this annoying white stuff used to collect on the baseball fields at our Little League in Albany.

The Pollening falls on the calendar somewhere between Third Winter, Mud Season, Actual Spring, and Fake Summer, and when it hits it's a pain in the neck, not to mention nose and head for those who suffer seasonal allergies.

What is all that white stuff?

Contrary to popular belief, it's not actual pollen littering the ground. Pollen is the yellow-green dust that collects on our car windshield, usually from a pine or birch tree,

The white stuff comes from the seeds of a poplar tree. The fluffy white hairs are found inside the seeds, and that's what ends up on our lawns with some help from the wind.

Poplar trees typically begin to pollinate in March and continue through April.  And right now, we appear to be in peak poplar season, so you might experience coughing, congestion, sneezing, and itchy throat, nose, and eyes.

Each spring, female poplar trees unleash massive amounts of seeds. These seeds contain fluffy seed hairs designed to catch the wind to help widely disperse them. The seeds end up coating the ground with a dense covering of fluff. Geographyrealm.com 


The hack to get rid of it

Back when I was kid, my father would take a match to the collection of fluffy seeds and it would instantly catch fire, spreading rather quickly. It looked pretty cool - just like in the video below.  When lit, the cotton-like seeds burn off, and what's underneath is relatively untouched.


The seeds from poplars are also highly flammable and when lit, catch fire and burn off, leaving underlying grass and other vegetation untouched.

Is it unsafe to burn poplar fluff?

It can be.

The fluff is highly flammable, similar to burning a bail of cotton, and according to the Times Union, some recent fires in the Capital Region may be attributed to people burning poplar fluff.

According to the report, The West Albany Fire Department has also responded to a few fires that involved highly combustible seeds,  although an investigation is still underway.


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