Spring is fastly approaching and with this, flowers and plants start to bloom and pollen fills the air. According to Thomas Ogren, a horticulturist who invented the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale (OPALS), pollen is the most common allergen that we are exposed to. It’s also something we can control by adjusting our landscapes to reduce plants that cause allergies.
There are three common types of flowering systems that we should be aware of when choosing plants: perfect-flowered plants, monoecious plants, and dioecious plants.
- Perfect-flowered plants: In perfect-flowered plants, male and female parts are in the same flower. Because the pollination process is relatively contained, these types of plants aren’t highly allergenic.
- Monoecious plants: In monoecious plants, male and female flowers grow on the same plant. Monoecious plants that are wind-pollinated are likely to cause allergies.
- Dioecious plants: These plants are separate-sexed. Some are male, and some are female. The male trees produce pollen, and are often highly allergenic, while the female trees produce fruit or seeds and are not highly allergenic.
If you are interested in planting a dioecious plant and are prone to allergies, make sure it’s a female. The main thing to look for when determining the gender of a plant is pollen. If a plant has pollen it is a male (or part male in the case of monoecious and perfect-flowered plants). If a plant has seeds or fruit, it is not necessarily a female, it can also be a mixed gendered plant.
To help you determine what will set off your allergies, we created a visual of the most and least allergenic plants based on the OPALS Allergy Index Scale. The OPALS Allergy Index Scale ranks plants from 1-10. Plants ranked 1 or 2 have very little potential for causing allergies, while plants ranked 9 or 10 are the most allergenic and can often cause hay fever and asthma.
OPALS considers a variety of factors when ranking how allergenic a plant is: the amount of pollen produced, potency of the pollen, how much of the year the plant is in bloom, size of the pollen grains, gravity of the pollen grains, stickiness and dryness of the pollen grains, type of flowering system, effect of sap, and smell of flowers, among other things. The visual below shows the peak pollen times for the most allergenic plants, so you’ll know when these genera or species will be most likely to set off your allergies.
This spring, whether you’re trying to figure out what’s triggering your allergies, looking for a new houseplant, or replanting your garden, this visual will help you choose the right allergy-safe plant! To see the visual, click on the link below.
If you’re worried about bringing pollen into your home, succulents are often a great non-allergenic choice. Though the OPALS rank varies by genus and species, cacti are considered safe with a rank of 1. Orchids, also ranked 1, are a great low maintenance choice.
Posted: March 14, 2016