Pine pollen

The commenters have it: all that yellow was pine pollen. And for those who haven’t seen it on a lake surface before, here’s a pulled-back view.

pine pollen 1

This was just one cove; the pollen was thick as pea soup in many other coves along the shoreline as well, and covered the entire lake to a lesser degree. Now consider that each one of those tiny pollen particles is actually a male gamete, and that there must have been billions upon billions of them to create great glopping soups like this one, and you’ll understand why a standard phrase among biologists is “sperm is cheap.” That stuff can be produced by the wagonload for very little cost in energy or resources, so it’s no big deal to fling clouds of it into the air in the hopes that a few gametes will find their targets.

Later that week, when we were hiking a hilltop trail in south central Oregon, I looked out across a valley and thought something was wrong with my eyes, because a section of trees on the opposite ridge looked blurry. When I looked back a few seconds later, they seemed perfectly normal. It wasn’t until a pine tree closer to me let loose with a giant poof of yellow pollen that I realized what I’d seen: an entire stand of trees releasing their gametes. From a distance, that cloud had made the trees seem out of focus.

Thank heavens I’m not allergic to that stuff.


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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5 Responses to Pine pollen

  1. Liam says:

    You show and teach us the coolest things. Thank you!

  2. Ana_ñ says:

    I didn’t say it yesterday but it looks like a yellow paint spillage. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were many reports of alarming water pollution by well-intentioned tourists.

    I am very glad you are posting these wonderful, and most interesting, photos of your scientific expedition. You do what you must with your metadata, but please keep sharing your works! 🙂

  3. kay says:

    Living on the coast of Oregon in the midst of lots of pine trees, this year the pollen from them has been extraordinary, each day my deck and the glass top furniture was covered with the yellow dust and as I would look out my kitchen window I saw the trees release clouds of the pollen which would then quickly waft its way into the atmosphere. Nature is really something else.

  4. Alma says:

    “That stuff can be produced by the wagonload for very little cost in energy or resources”
    Except by some fruit flies that produce one single sperm several times their own body lenght. Nature is weird.

    As for the pollen, we get that in Stockholm too, but not to such extremes. Puddles can look like those coves, and the lake surface tends to look as though the algae bloom came early, but I’ve never seen such complete coverage!

  5. xenatuba says:

    Those allergies are pretty bad. We’ve got some pine trees at the house, and get a healthy dose of pollen every spring. I have never seen it in water like that…usually on my car!

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