Vehicular Pollination

A cold winter and a short spring have left a short window for many species of trees and plants to release wind-borne pollen – so they are doing it all at once. It’s an adaptation for them, and we have to adapt. Part of that adaptation, I suppose, is that all of our vehicles are now purveyors of pollen.

I washed the first batch of pollen off my car less than 48 hours before the image here was taken, and my grey car is already completely yellow again. Pollen. Some types of pollen have a remarkable ability to fold in upon themselves for their flight, allowing them to retain moisture, and then unfold upon arrival in a hospitable destination, ready to reproduce. My guess is that the folding pollen types remain folded on the hot roof of my car, waiting for a better home.

folding pollen, springtime, hayfever

A variety of pollen grains in different stages of folding
Image via ScienceFriday / Slow Muse

This isn’t the first year I’ve seen all the cars turned the same golden color, but it might be one of the most intense. And of course, it’s not just the vehicles. It’s on every possible surface. But then, I don’t generally suffer from hayfever – otherwise, my concerns would be elsewhere.

How many different species of vegetation are represented on the top of my car?

pollen bomb, pollination, trees, adaptation

Pollen horizon: A golden blanket of pollen atop my car.
Photo: PKR

If their pollination season is usually spread over several weeks, and they’ve all released at the same time, what impact does that have on the various animals or plants that interact with them according to a seasonal schedule that has been drastically accelerated?

These are the questions I ask myself as I look out over the dusty hood of my car. Meanwhile, if you are in an area where pollen is carpeting everything, here’s a good article on how to keep those fertile little motes from damaging the paint on your vehicle.



The Big Picture

A vast dust plume blows off Northern Africa. Photo: NASA/USGS

A vast dust plume blows off Northern Africa.

The dust of the Sahara is one of the world’s great transport methods for depositing minerals around the world. An estimated 60 – 200 million tons of mineral dust per year gets blown from the Sahara to points all across the globe, fertilizing the Amazon, affecting the weather, causing hazy skies, blanketing land and sea alike while providing the phytoplankton of the Mediterranean Sea with nutrients and adversely affecting the growth of coral reefs.

It’s a major global phenomenon that I only mention here and now because of this: The dust of the Sahara on our car in eastern France.

Photo: PK Read

Photo: PK Read

On everyone’s cars, on all the plants and furniture outside, on the solar panels, on the windows and swirling on the streets.

At least I can feel a part of something much larger while I wait in line at the car wash.