Learn more about pollen - Paterson's Curse

Paterson’s Curse (Species, Echium plantagineum; Family, Boraginaceae)

Paterson’s Curse (Echium plantagineum) is a winter annual plant originating in Europe, northern Africa, and southwestern Asia. In the 1850s it was introduced to Australia, probably both as an accidental contaminate of pasture seed and as an ornamental plant. Paterson's Curse is now a dominant broadleaf pasture weed through much of southern Australia and also infests native grasslands, heathlands and woodlands. It is wind and insect pollinated and produces large amounts of pollen during September to January.

A high proportion of people with respiratory allergies test positive to Paterson’s Curse pollen in Australia making it a significant allergy risk for rural as well as urban populations. 

 

Distribution of Paterson's Curse (Atlas of Living Australia occurrence map)

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Learn more about pollen - Plantain

Plantain (Species, Plantago lanceolata; Family, Fagaceae)

Plantain (also Ribweed, Ribgrass, Lamb's Tongue, or Narrow-Leaf Plantain) or Plantago lanceolata, is an annual or biennial herb with lance-shaped leaves. Introduced from Europe and Asia, it is an abundant lawn weed in temperate regions of Australia. They are wind-pollinated and produce large amounts of pollen during October to February.

Next to some of the well-known allergenic pollen types such as Rye grass, Plantain is considered as significant as an allergic pollen in the temperate regions of Australia. There area number of native Plantago species, though these are relatively rare and their allergenic properties are unknown.

 

Distribution of Plantain (Atlas of Living Australia occurrence map)

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Above average rainfall in early November quells an angry Godzilla hay fever season

Predictions of a Godzilla hay fever season in October of this year appeared to be well on track to come true. That is until a period of unusually high rainfall for early November subdued the angry beast. Daily pollen counts for grass in Canberra over the October-November period showed that the early season pollen levels where well above average, however, just after the beginning of November grass pollen levels began to dip below the long term average. So much so that people in Canberra have encountered a total of only 1500 grass pollen grains/m3 across the season this year compared to 2200 grass pollen grains/m3 in 2014. Why did this happen and what can we learn from these observations?

The Bureau of Meteorology reported that the long term average rainfall for Canberra in November (64mm) had fallen entirely within the first two weeks of November. The occurrence of rainfall during the day can have a significant impact on the concentration of hay fever causing pollen by effectively “washing out” these small particles floating in the atmosphere.

The occurrence of high rainfall during the first two weeks of November also coincided with the peak time for grass pollen production in the ACT. This resulted in a significant reduction in the total grass pollen atmospheric load for the season. However, this did not eliminate all allergenic particles as there has been a significant rise in the fungal spore Alternaria during these wetter periods. One of the key lessons from this year is that predicting pollen levels is a tricky thing and will remain highly problematic until we can accumulate multiple years of real data to analyse. 

Top graph shows the cumulative pollen load for Canberra illustrated as the minimum, average and maximum for years since recording began in 2007 (Oct-Dec recording period). The pollen load for 2015 up until the end of November is depicted in red. The bottom graph shows the long term average and standard deviation for an entire year based on historic records of grass pollen in Canberra. High rainfall period (total = 64mm) recorded in first 2 weeks of November 2015.

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