EXTENSION CONNECTION: Blame ragweed for fall hay fever

Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 09:40 AM.

Goldenrod is a familiar sight this time of year, with its showy yellow flowers held high on stems swaying from autumn winds.

A field full of these vivid yellow blossoms, with a bright blue fall sky as a backdrop, is a sight to behold. Too often, this plant is blamed for the sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes that many people suffer while goldenrod blooms.

However, the common culprit causing these allergy symptoms is ragweed, not goldenrod. Ragweed blooms at the same time — August to frost — as goldenrod.

Ragweed releases its billions of tiny, lightweight pollen grains into the air this time of year. This windborne pollen causes much of the hay fever problems.

Goldenrod pollen is too large, heavy and sticky to be windborne; it relies on insects to carry its pollen. I suppose if you nestle your nose into a cluster of goldenrod flowers and take a big sniff, the pollen might bother you, but otherwise, it is not going to get into your nose.

Goldenrod is an innocent bystander; ragweed remains camouflaged while releasing pollen and it visually blends in with other green plants.

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