Defending flowers from fake hay fever news

Myths about flowers causing hay fever start to emerge this time of year and they are almost as predictable as the arrival of blooms, butterflies and bees at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Gardens Director of Horticulture and allergy sufferer Jimmy Turner wants to combat fake flower news this year and is on a mission to share the facts about spring allergies.

Jimmy Turner knows better than most how debilitating hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis can be as he is among the unlucky 15% of Australians not looking forward to the sneezing fits, runny nose and itchy eyes that spring brings.  

“This time of year it is easy to blame colourful flowers like Australian wattles for allergies, but it is a myth that they are the cause,” Mr Turner said.

“Their flowers are bright yellow for a reason, to attract insects for pollination. Wattle pollen is just too heavy to float in the air.”

Studies show that most hay fever is caused by mould, dust and especially pollen from grass and trees, because these particles are light and easily blown by the wind in large quantities

Jimmy understands it is easy to blame the flowers that catch our eye because, “most likely you’ve never noticed ryegrass, couch or other grasses in bloom” but, he adds, “their pollen can travel for hundreds of kilometres via early spring winds. They are the main cause of spring hay fever along with some large trees such as London plane, oak, pines and she oaks.”

“Plants with large and colourful flowers are almost always animal pollinated as their pollen is just too heavy to float in the air,” Mr Turner said.

“They need fancy flowers to attract animals such as bees and butterflies to come along and carry the pollen for them.

“The only way this pollen can cause allergies to people is if they stick their nose right in the bloom for a big sniff.”

The horticulture team are looking forward to showing off the Garden’s famous Spring Walk in coming weeks and will be happy to explain to any sneezing visitors that they should probably direct their pollen frustrations elsewhere.

This year’s display will feature wisteria, ornamental peach rhododendrons, ranunculus and poppies.