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The Pollen Section

Trees that Make You Sneeze

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The Prairies

Those of us living on the continent’s northern plains have willow, birch and poplars (cottonwood and aspen) to blame for the first bout of red eyes and respiratory distress. Pollination time on the Prairies is heavily influenced by the weather, and these trees typically bloom in late April or early May.

The paper birch is so ubiquitous, it’s “almost synonymous with Canada,” Guy says. Civic governments plant paper birch, ash and elm trees in many Prairie cities. Oak is found in forested areas. Poplar, a widespread tree on the plains, is one of the first to spread its pollen and seed.

Not as numerous but also allergy-causing to some is the Russian olive. “They’re popular in the Prairies because there’s not much you can grow there,” Vancouverite Guy says with a chuckle.

Central-East Region

Allergy sufferers in Southern Ontario, Quebec, and the northeastern U.S. have a bevy of pollinating trees to avoid. Ottawa allergist Dr. Mortimer Katz says birch, elm, maple, oak and poplar are some of the worst offenders. More bad news: if you react to one of those trees, you’re more likely to “cross-react” and develop symptoms to some of the others.

An area stretching up the northeastern U.S. into southern Ontario which includes Pittsburgh and Toronto is particularly bad, thanks to prolific grasses, trees and ragweed. Katz dubs the Ottawa Valley the “allergy capital of the world,” adding that “almost everybody who comes to Ottawa says their allergies are worse here.”

Trees can start causing trouble in central Canada as early as March and as late as May.

Next: The East Coast

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