Spring is here! The season of blooming flowers, rainy days, and… allergies. Though spring brings beautiful life back to the world, for many it brings runny or stuffy noses, itchy eyes, sneezing, much more. Most people are aware these symptoms are due to pollen, but why is there so much pollen around anyway? What if I told you this was actually due to botanical sexism? I know some people will turn their head at the phrase “botanical sexism,” but it’s not strange as it seems.
In the 20th century, cities almost completely wiped out female trees from streets. Why? Well, female trees produce fruit, seeds, and pods, which people found pretty bothersome since they would create “litter.” The solution for this, in their eyes, was to solely plant male trees, which were “litterfree” compared to that of the female trees. Although male trees don’t produce fruit or pods, they do produce a great amount of pollen, which is a known allergen. Female trees, contrarily, produce no pollen; however, they do absorb a lot of pollen. Consequently, with an overwhelming amount of male trees being planted, there’s an overwhelming amount of pollen. Not only
did botanists almost eradicate female trees from streets, they also biologically changed many species of trees, which created types of trees never even seen before such as seedless cypress and podless honey locust trees. Botanical sexism doesn’t just stop at trees: there were also all-male shrubs, junipers, pines, grasses and more that were grown.
Many would think this isn’t a big deal (though medical neglect in the US is nothing new), and it wouldn’t be if male plants weren’t so heavily favored in botany. If there were a moderate amount of male trees, there would be no problem: being exposed to a little pollen is actually good for us, as are most allergens. The problem is the over exposure to pollen, which creates such extreme reactions and symptoms. This surplus of pollen has even been said to have created “an epidemic of allergies and asthma.” However, it comes as no surprise that the side effects of an abundance of pollen wouldn’t be considered a problem: America can capitalize off of the health issues its own environment creates. When there’s an increase of people with allergies and asthma, there will be more people buying allergy and asthma medication. The government isn’t going to go through a process that will, ultimately, lose them money, when they profit off of the problems it creates.
Some solutions to this problem, obviously, would be to plant more female trees, but that would bring us back to the litter problem that started this mess. Additionally, it would be a hassle to remove pre-existing trees to make room for new ones. So instead of replacing the trees we already have, there could be more areas for female trees to thrive such as orchards and community gardens. Not only will this decrease the amount of pollen, but it can also assist in food shortages and allow people to effectively learn how to curate food for themselves; especially with the current political state of the US, it would be very beneficial for people and neighborhoods to have more ways of self sustainability.