Aug 15 2009


Published by at 7:14 am under Phenology,Plants

Comon Ragweed, leaves and flower (photo by Chuck Tague)

Ragweed season officially begins every year on August 15.

Mercifully I have never been allergic to it but I've had my share of outdoor allergies.  I know the agony of a sneezy, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes and the scratchy throat that itches all the way back into your ears.  Misery!  Once the itchy reaction starts it's hard to stop.

Eventually, through sneezy experimentation, I figured out what causes my allergies -- hay, cut grass, marigolds, cut ground ivy, privet flowers, chrysanthemums -- and I learned not to sniff them deeply.  It helps that I live in the city where there aren't extensive lawns.  And no, you can't tell me that cut grass smells sweet.  It smells like hayfever.

So ragweed sufferers, know thine enemy.  The leaves are dark green and deeply cut.  The flower is a pale green-yellow spike that doesn't look much like a flower at all.

Common ragweed's flower is ugly because it isn't trying to attract insects.  This plant is pollinated by the wind so the flower spike stands like a flagpole with loads of pollen that "poof" easily into the air.  That's why it's so good at making you sneeze.

To add insult to injury, its Latin name is Ambrosia artemisiifolia.  Ambrosia?!

Good luck ... and take an antihistamine before you go outdoors.

(photos by Chuck Tague)


p.s. Ragweed is native to North America but has been labeled it as a noxious weed in some U.S. states. I'll bet the plant labelers have allergies. 😉

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Ahhhh-Chooo!”

  1. Kristenon 15 Aug 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Oh I understand all about freshly cut grass! When it is just hanging out growing, doing its grassy thing, I’m fine. Rev up a lawnmower and I want to cry.

  2. Kate St. Johnon 16 Aug 2009 at 7:42 pm

    On my hike today along the Youghiogeny River Trail I saw a giant form of ragweed called Great Ragweed. Huge! …and blooming!

  3. Mark Bon 27 Aug 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Actually, when ragweed starts blooming, it has a very pleasant, sweet odor – hence Ambrosia (my guess). Last year, I found myself working on some sites in Bradford County, Pa along the Susquehanna River and some tributaries. There was a floodplain area near Towanda that had extensive Giant ragweed that truly lived up to its name. It was about 9 to 10 feet tall and towered above our heads. Fortunately, it was not blooming yet.

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