Throwing it to the Wind

Though many of you may be cursing this fact, in the temperate regions of the north, wind pollinated trees are bursting into bloom. Their flowers aren't very showy. They don't have to be. Instead of relying on other organisms for pollination, these trees throw it to the wind, literally.

It is an interesting observation to note that the instances of wind pollinated tree species increases with latitude and elevation. This makes a lot of sense. It is most effective in open areas where wind is at its strongest. That is why many wind-pollinated trees get down to business before they leaf out.




The fewer obstructions the better. Also, pollinators can be hard to come by both at high elevation and high latitudes. Therefore, why not let the wind do all the work? This is also why wind-pollination is most common in early succession and large canopy species. Similarly, this is also why you rarely encounter wind-pollinated trees in the tropics. Leaves are out year round and pollinators are in abundance.

Without pollinators, wind-pollinated trees don't need to invest in showy flowers. That is why they often go unnoticed by folks. Instead, they pour their energy into pollen production. Your irritated sinuses are a vivid reminder of that fact. Wind pollination is risky. It relies mostly on chance. Therefore, the more pollen a tree pumps out, the more likely it will bump into a female. However, some trees like red maples (Acer rubrum) combine tactics, relying on both wind and hardy spring pollinators for their reproduction.

Whether you love this time of year or dread it, it is nonetheless interesting to see how static organisms like trees cope with the difficulties of sexual reproduction. I enjoy sitting in my yard and watching pines billow pollen like smoke from a fire. If anything, it is a stark reminder of how important sexual reproduction is to the myriad organisms on this planet.

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