You've seen it the last week or two - even if you didn't know what it was. Those white particles flying through the air outside, landing on everything, coating vehicles and surfaces.  And while some Northlanders may have joked and observed that it "looked like snow", it is in fact - pollen.

And it's springtime arrival shouldn't come as any surprise.

Pollen is a regular part of the seasonal cycle of things.  The first glimpse of sunshine and those initial warm temperatures of the spring season start the growing cycle for a wide variety of plants, trees, and flowers.

First - what is pollen?

Well, by it's biological definition, pollen is "a mass of microspores in a seed plant appearing usually as fine dust.  Each pollen grain is a minute body, of varying shape and structure, formed in the male structures of seed-bearing plants and transported by various means (wind, water, insects, etc) to the female structures, where fertilization occurs".  That transportation from the male seed structure to the female seed structure is what we're observing.

 

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It's a pretty common thing to see pollen each spring.  So why then does it seem especially bad this year? Especially in Duluth, Superior, and the Northland?

That question doesn't necessarily have any easy answer.

Some experts who research plant life and the connection to climate suggest that the increase in pollen count is reflective of climate change as a whole.  They offer that "warmer winter...[brings] a longer growing season for trees and grasses that produce pollen, meaning a higher concentration of pollen for us to deal with as it begins to bloom".

Climate change or not, our extended winter season here in the Northland is also part of the blame - at least for this particular year. Spring of 2022 took a long time to happen.  But as things thawed and re-froze - only to thaw again, that cycle lengthened the timeline for plants to start their pollen production.

So what will make the pollen go away eventually?  The answer might seem strange for Northlanders: rain.  And even though our area has seen some pretty significant heavy rain storms roll through, it's actually the lighter rainfalls that do more good when it comes to pollen.

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