Monday, June 3, 2013

The lewdness of trees

Upon arriving to my new place in Ohio, I noted a film of dust on surfaces which I assumed was from the clay soils of the region. But since arriving, my allergies have been the worse I have ever experienced, and this is a recurring story among people who move to the area. So I wondered, is that layer of particles outside on the porch (which one can leave footprints in) not clay dust but rather enormous amounts of pollen? I took a swipe with my finger and dipped the dusty fingertip into a drop of water on a glass slide and took a look under my microscope. And lo and behold, the dust was mostly pollen! So yes indeed, this Spring we have been swimming in a sea of pollen, in the midst of a massive plant orgy.

80X magnification. Photo taken with an iPhone.
320X magnification. Photo taken with an iPhone.


I can't tell what plant species produced the pollen, but judging from the different sizes and shape, it's a variety of plant types. I noted some strange "Princess Leia"-like pollen grains (not shown, but like the ones here) and these are apparently from pine trees. Coincidentally, this week Science magazine which arrived in the mail also had a micrograph of a pollen grain, in this case a fossilized pollen grain from the ancient supercontinent Pangea.


Next Spring I will take samples across time to see if I note a change in pollen types from early to late Spring. It's fun having a microscope at home to do this sort of investigating. I thank my friend Chris M. in Boston for the amazing gift.