I love springtime. From the fragrance of blooming trees and bushes, to the gray morphing to green, to the rain showers that clear the air, it is by far my favorite season. Of course, I don’t suffer from allergies like thousands of others do, so when I see the snowfall of flower pollen filling the air, it just makes me smile as another sign of spring.
Years ago when the city of Beijing needed to plant trees for shade and to help improve air quality, poplar and willow trees were planted due to their fast growth and hearty nature in the tough Beijing climate. But those lovely trees are the very culprits of the flurry catkins you see around at this time of year, sometimes so plentiful that they obstruct your view when driving or riding a bike.
This is the beginning stage of the relatively short season, which is all dependent on warm temperatures in late April and early May. For those who suffer allergies, you might curse the fuzzies in the air but you’d be barking up the wrong tree. According to an associate research fellow from the Institute of Botany with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (source from China Daily), catkins actually contain no pollen, thus are incapable of aggravating people’s allergies. They carry seeds from the trees only, so people suffering from allergies are likely having trouble due to the pollen from other flowers or mildew, both active in spring.
The government has gone to great measures to reduce the annual problem, from chemical injection to pruning of the trees. Although with inconsistent claims about the problem trees being male or female, one wonders if they are treating the correct trees!
A couple of years ago, the catkins were so plentiful that my girls made a mini “snow”man in our back yard. Our garage was always filled with them, as the most gentle of breezes ushered them in. Driving with car windows down inevitably means that fuzzies get in your car. And if you wind up sneezing, it might just be because they got a little too close to your mouth or nose and were accidentally inhaled.
My girls know it at as Beijing Snow, and it looks like the next couple of weeks it’s back again.