At first, there seems to be nothing out of the ordinary about the pine tree featured the viral Facebook video. A backhoe approaches the tree and gives it a little tap. Suddenly, billowing puffs of pollen furl out from the pine’s branches and float through the air like a fluffy, yellow cloud.
As Briana Montalvo of ABC News reports, Eric Henderson of Cumberland County, New Jersey, drove the backhoe that sparked the pollen explosion. And his wife, Jennifer Henderson, posted a video of the mind-boggling pollen plume on Facebook, where it has since garnered nearly 5 million views.
“When my husband said the pollen’s bad, I probably should’ve taken his word for it,” she captioned the video.
The pollen cloud in Henderson’s video are certainly eye catching. But it seems to also have touched a nerve among those who suffer from runny noses, watery eyes and itchy throats each spring.
“This is what is ruining me,” one commenter wrote.
Pollen, which carries the sperm cells that allow plant fertilization to take place, is among the most common triggers of seasonal allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. And seasonal allergies seem to be hitting Americans particularly hard this year. As Shamard Charles reports for NBC News, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has found that allergy season is affecting more people and lasting up to 27 days longer than it has in the past.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, climate change might be to blame.
“Some research has suggested that the warming trend that we have in our environment is causing the pollen seasons to start a little bit earlier, and extend a little bit longer,” Stanley Fineman, former president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, tells Charles. “Consequently, patients are suffering because they're exposed to pollen, for longer periods of time.”
While pollen seasons may be getting longer, it is actually perfectly normal for pine trees to produce as much pollen as the one featured in Henderson’s video.
“This [scene] is not unusual," Sheila McCormick, an adjunct professor of plant and microbial biology at the University of California, Berkeley, tells Brandon Specktor of Live Science. “In general, most plants produce much more pollen than is needed. For example, a single corn plant produces 2 [million] to 5 million pollen grains, and an ear of corn has a few hundred seeds.”
Plants create abundant quantities of pollen to ensure that their seed spreads across a wide area, thereby increasing their chances of reproducing successfully. Pine pollen, which is dispersed by the wind, generally dispersing within 300 feet from the original tree.
Moral of the story: If you suffer from seasonal allergies, think twice about knocking on a pine tree during spring.