Welcome to Spring in the Lowcountry! March on Hilton Head brings one of the most fascinating natural events in the calendar. Starting in late February and through March, often into April, pollen invades the Lowcountry. Anything that lives outside will be covered in this fluorescent yellow, waxy, grainy substance. It seems to invade every aspect of life this time of year.
For many, March on Hilton Head also brings the sneezing and itchy eyes of seasonal allergies. It’s easy to blame that yellow coating substance for these symptoms, but that type of pollen is not the culprit. There are 42 species of trees, weeds and grasses that flower in Beaufort County in the Spring. The pollen that covers our cars and porches is pine pollen, which has been proven not to cause allergies.
Pine trees are amongst some of the most ancient tree species on earth, having lived on earth three times longer than flowering plants. Pine trees’ efficient reproductive process makes these trees the most common conifers on earth. Fertilization begins when pine trees produce soft cones containing pollen spores. Wind and gravity free the pollen from the soft cones and it coats everything around it, including nearby pine cones, which contain the female seeds. After the seeds inside the pine cone are fertilized, the pinecone will follow one of many paths to planting the seeds inside it. The seeds find their way out of the pinecone and into the ground to grow and become new trees. The cone protects the seeds, which allows the pinecones to travel farther before planting the seeds. This is how the species has become so widespread.
The seed of the pine tree is the pine nut, a common cooking ingredient. Pine pollen is eaten all over the world. It contains a great deal of vitamins and minerals and is revered as natural medicine. You can buy pine pollen supplements on most vitamin aisles, indicated for men who believe they are experiencing low levels of testosterone. This condition, called audropause, causes a loss of energy, concentration and a rise in depression. Pollen is a potent source of natural androgens, which act like testosterone in the body. Pollen is also indicated for prostate regulation, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-aging and immune system enhancement.
Pine pollen is so plentiful at certain times of year, it is counted in grains per cubic meter of air. Rather than cursing this omnipresent dusting, marvel at the incredible reproductive process taking place, one that has taken place on earth for millions of years. This March, get outside and see the fantastic array of Lowcountry flora and fauna.