NYC’s hellish spring tree pollen — why?

Experts say too many male trees are making spring allergy season hell in NYC: ‘Botanical sexism’


Steven Vago and Natalie O’Neill, published April 19, 2023 11:01pm 


When it comes to allergies, men are the “root” of the problem!

An excess of obnoxious, pollen-spewing male trees are wreaking havoc on New Yorkers’ sinuses — worsening what experts predict will be a hellish spring allergy season this year.

In a trend dubbed “botanical sexism,” urban planners planted more male trees in the Big Apple because they’re generally easier to maintain than females, which litter sidewalks with seeds and fruit, experts told The Post.

“But males are actually much more prolific producers of pollen. It’s an aggravating factor for allergies,” said Dr. Sebastian Lighvani, of the Allergy Experts practice on the Upper East Side.

“The concept of allergies wasn’t on the radar of planners when they planted so many males. So we’re stuck with a preponderance of them,” he said.

Pollen from dioecious trees such as maples linger in the air longer and fail to fully absorb due to the city’s lack of leafy ladies, according to doctors and horticulturists.

As the inconsiderate males spread their seed, it creates an itchy, sneezy nightmare for New Yorkers.

“It’s been horrible. I keep taking COVID tests because I’m nervous but then I take Claritin and it goes away,” said Sandy Schiffman, 67, a retired FBI agent from the West Village.

“Every time the wind blows it’s awful today,” said Schiffman, who was relaxing in Washington Square Park with her 10-year-old chihuahua, Be.

One young man sneezing in blooming nature on sunny spring day.
The high number of male trees in New York City is causing peoples’ allergies to flare up.

Asked about the city’s allergy-inflaming arbor world gender gap, she quipped: “I think men have been screwing up the country for years so that makes sense to me.”

Other factors exacerbating allergies this year include New York City’s mild winter and the fact that people are masking up less post-COVID,  experts said.

“Everyone is talking about how this could potentially be the worst allergy season ever,” said Dr. Neeta Ogen, an Edison, New Jersey-based spokeswoman for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

“It aligns with a trend. With climate change and a warmer planet we are seeing more intense severe, seasons,” Ogen said. “It’s optimal for plant growth but  that means earlier and longer release of pollen.”

“People involved in urban and residential planning are going to have to consider this as they decide what to plant,” she said of the city’s abundance of male trees. “Climate change is going to continue to be a trend.”

Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) nest.
In a trend dubbed “botanical sexism,” urban planners planted more male trees in the Big Apple because they’re generally easier to maintain than females

Intensifying allergy seasons are a problem in other cities too, horticulturists said.

“There’s no gender balance [of trees] in cities anymore,” horticulturist and author Tom Ogren told NBC Washington in early April.

Ogren, an author who coined the term “botanical sexism,” said cities often prioritize easy clean-up over an ecologically healthy balance of plant sexes.

“If you line a street with nothing but male red maples, good Lord, you’re creating what I would just call a pollen corridor,” he said. “When that thing goes off, it will blow people away.”

Earlier this month, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a report warning that pollen could send some New Yorkers to the emergency room with asthma attacks and allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.

New Yorkers can manage spring allergies by beginning some medications before the season is in full swing  and avoiding going outside during peak pollen count times such as mornings, Lighvani  said. 20

Experts also recommended frequent showers to clean pollen off your skin and out of your nasal passages during the pollen-heavy months of April and Jun.

The city parks department said it plants only about half of the city’s trees — and that the vast majority are monoecious, with both male and female flowering parts.

“We wholeheartedly object to accusations of treescrimination. The vast majority of trees we plant have both male and female flowers,” a spokesman for the department said.

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