It’s hardly surprising that so many New Zealanders suffer from allergies. About a third of us will complain about some sort of allergy in our lifetimes, and with all the pollen-laden vegetation that lives on the doorsteps of our cities and towns, plant-based allergens are often to blame. These plants, in particular, are the sneeziest and wheeziest of them all.
- The pollen season lasts for nine months of the year, from autumn (March) until the end of spring in November. The link between gorse pollen and hay fever has yet to be confirmed but given the huge amounts of pollen this plant produces, and because it is so widespread, a connection between the two would not be surprising. Gorse was introduced into New Zealand as an ornamental plant and although it has a bad reputation in modern days, it is a major food source for bees, particularly in winter, and is an important nurse plant for regenerating bush.
- Just like gorse, macrocarpa trees are commonly seen on long drives on country roads. Another thing in common with gorse – a very, very long pollen season. Macrocarpa trees produce pollen for eight months of the year, extending from July right through to February. Macrocarpa pollen is classified as a severe allergen.
- In New Zealand, plantain is not the banana-type fruit known all over the world. Here, it is a low-growing weed that produces pollen for seven months of the year, starting in September until autumn in March. Each plantain plant produces only small amounts of pollen, but it is widespread in parks, lawns and roadside verges which makes it one of New Zealand’s most common allergens.
- This is a well known and prolific pollen producer for half the year starting from July. A mature Pinus radiata tree can produce up to one kilogram of pollen each year; with our vast and numerous pine forests, it’s inevitable that all of those allergens will affect Kiwis up and down the country. While pine pollen is seen as nasty stuff here, it has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries.
- Olive trees. This one might surprise you because, until the early 2000s, most New Zealanders weren’t aware they were sensitive to olive tree pollen because there weren’t many trees around. But the number of olive orchards is increasing
and they produce pollen from October to March, particularly in dry areas with a
Mediterranean climate e.g. Hawkes Bay. The oil is nice but the pollen is potent.
In a country where plant-based allergens are largely responsible for the sneezes, wheezes and coughs that plague us, it is good to know that modern heat pumps, as supplied and installed by companies like this one, are coming to the rescue. Many of the latest devices now feature advanced filtration systems, capable of removing pollen and dust from the air before delivering clean, allergen-free air back into the internal environment. Technology like this is not to be sneezed at in our sneeze-inducing environment.