Many of us start sneezing and getting watery-eyed when it comes to spring. We all know the cause of these symptoms, and it is pollen. In spring, male trees have to pollinate the female trees, which is their form of reproduction. So while this may be a nuisance for us, we can see why this is important to have so life keeps going.
Around 375 million years ago, plants evolved to produce pollen to help spread their seed and population across landmass. This process helped plants and animals get to where they are today. Without an abundant amount of trees, we would have a less diverse and robust ecosystem of plants and animals. We should also keep in mind that these plants provide us with a much needed supply of oxygen.
Plants evolved to pollinate so they can disperse their seed through the air. Initially, plants would rely on flowing bodies of water and animals to move the male seed to the female. Depending on water supply and animal population in an ecosystem, oftentimes plants would remain in a small area because there would be nothing to take them any further. However, with pollen, plants gained a chance to disperse on a greater scale.
Plants began to take advantage and use winds to increase the travel distance of their seeds. If we look around our forests today, we can see how effective this evolutionary trait is. Plants produce a lot of pollen because it is usually hit or miss, so with more pollen comes a greater chance to successfully fertilize.
Coniferous plants, which include pines, cedars, and redwoods are the most wide spread pollen producers, which rely on winds to do most of the job for them. Deciduous plants, like birch, oak, and maple trees use animals to help pollinate their seed. These different trees contain different proteins in their pollen. These pollen proteins when exposed to us can trigger our immune systems to go into overdrive mode. Everyone has an individual sensitivity to pollen, so depending where you are, you may be more or less affected by this allergy.