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Tahoe blanketed by pollen

B.H. Bose

Just weeks after the Tahoe Basin finally rid itself of the white stuff, it gets blanketed by yellow stuff. Although it was delayed by the abundance of precipitation this year and the cool temperatures, the annual release of pine pollen has finally come to the area.

“This year I would say it is producing on the high side,” said Scott Parsons, a forester with the U.S. Forest Service. “This year is probably slightly below last year, which was heavier. El Nino probably delayed the pollen process and helped make it a little higher than average.”

The species that are causing the yellow pollen particles to rain down from above are Jeffrey and lodgepole pines. Tree species pollinate at different times and with different intensities, said Parsons. In most mixed coniferous forests, pollinating may go relatively unnoticed. However, when you get stands dominated by one species – usually pines – that are in the pollen process, the colorful dust can be released in massive amounts.

“In some places there are species of trees that pollinate at different times, like mixed conifer forests, so you don’t see it as much,” Parsons said. “Here on the South Shore most stands are Jeffrey pine, so you get these waves of pollen.”

Places like Incline Village, which is also dominated by Jeffrey pines, have also been blanketed with pollen as have many other regions along the lake. The pollen decreases as you rise in altitude where fir trees, which don’t usually release as much pollen, start dominating, Parsons said.

The pollination period depends on the species, but it generally lasts one to three weeks. During that time the female flower will be open, ready to accept the pollen that is disseminated by the wind. While it lasts only a few weeks, the starting date always fluctuates.

“We have very dense forests, primary Jeffrey pine and lodgepole pines in the area and the temperature conditions have just gotten to the point for them do to their thing,” said Linda Massey, public information officer with the forest service. “The weather conditions were a little different, they warmed up about a month earlier last year, so this happened a month earlier last year. Expect this to happen for another couple of weeks or so.”

With all the particles that continue to dust everything in sight, it may look like an abnormal situation. However, it is simply pines beginning their annual reproduction cycle.

“This usually happens in June, but this year it came in July,” Parsons said. “With the pines you can get massive amounts of pollen clouds. It may vary in intensity, but it always happens. It is not unusual at all.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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