October pollen - what's in Melbourne's air?

Oct. 20, 2015

Last Thursday (Oct 15) was our first moderate grass pollen day of the season. So what was in the air?

The Canberra pollen count has put up some fabulous pollen stories lately - great work guys! Meanwhile what's happeing pollen-wise in the southern capital?

Last Thursday (Oct 15) was our first moderate grass pollen day of the season. And those of you who do the daily survey available on our free app told us it was also our worst hay fever day so far.

Thursday's grass pollen was only rated as moderate because we counted an average of 39 pollen grains per cubic metre of air. A moderate day is one with an average of 20 or more grass pollen grains and a high day one with 50 or more pollen grains. On high days all people who are grass-pollen sensitive can expect to experience symptoms (unless, of course, they take steps to avoid exposure and use their medication). We are still waiting for the first high grass pollen day of 2015.

But there was an average of 292 other pollen grains in that cubic metre of air last Thursday and today's picture shows you what some of those other pollen grains were.

The birches are flowering at the moment, as are some of the daisies (capeweed, Arctotheca calendula, is particularly abundant). We also saw the triangular pollen of different species from the myrtle family, the Myrtaceae. This family includes such iconic Australian species as the eucalypts or gum trees, paperbarks and bottlebrushes. Although these plants have showy flowers and are typically bird-pollinated, because there are so many gum trees and so on around, even if only small amounts of their pollen are released into the air there is still enough of it about to reach our trap. But most of the other pollen grains on the slide were from cypress.

Although we don't talk about them much, there were certainly lots of fungal spores around too of course (we are pollen counters, after all). Coprinus are the ink cap mushrooms and Alternariaare fungi that are found in the soil and grow on rotting plant matter. Smuts, too, grow on plants where they often causes diseases, notably of grasses. All three are pretty normal components of Melbourne's air. Alternaria spores can cause hay fever although generally it's considered an indoor allergen.

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