Around mid-December each year (sometimes as early as late September) and on through January (and sometimes extending through February), cedar pollen makes its unwelcome visit to San Antonio and South Texas. Cedar is actually is misnomer, considering that it is actually the male Ash Juniper tree that produces its berries and decides to pollinate in the Winter. It floods South Texas in clouds like a swarm of army ants moving across a jungle floor. (The picture here shows the red pollen accumulated on the tips of the leaves.)
Personally, I think that mature Junipers can be beautiful trees. These evergreens seem to be the predominant tree species in the Texas hill country. They propagate easily and spread quicker than rabbits. Many developers in the area consider this tree an invasive nuisance in that it uses crazy amounts of water. Nevertheless, they don’t seem to be affected much by drought.
Despite their beauty, anyone who lives in their midst or downstream from their pollination flow will eventually succumb to “cedar fever.” It seems that no one is immune to this evil pollen. I’ve known people to live in the area for decades, only to wake up one January morning congested, and itchy, and sneezing. Everyone here complains about it and everyone has their own prescription for surviving it. Two days ago the cedar count was at 8,270 grains per cubic meter. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what this may mean, at 400 grains a pollen is generally discernible. It is miserable here.
Let me tell you how bad it is. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has ranked Austin and San Antonio as the 1st and 2nd worst cities in the entire U.S. for fall allergy sufferers.
Aside from the general ugly feeling I get for about two months every year (I only slept about 2 hours last night since I couldn’t breath through my nose), it is most disappointing to not be able to taste or smell very well. For example, would you believe that I cannot smell the Vicks I put under my nose? Yeah, can’t smell the eucalyptus AT ALL. Going out to eat kind of sucks, too, since my taste buds are dulled. I always have to ask my wife:
“Does this taste bland, or is it just me?”
Normally, its just me, and I reach for the salt. I hate Junipers.