Spring has the power to delight and to despair.

Watch life unfurl in tender grape-like flowers of wisteria, with the explosion of brightly colored azaleas in bloom, and through the bold stained glass reds of an Emperor Japanese Maple.  A delight of luminous proportions for the visual sense, but for those with allergies, this season may do a lot to make a person miserable!

Many years ago, I lived for a short while in Phoenix (Scottsdale to be exact) and I was suffering a runny nose and scratchy eyes from the surrounding flora and resulting pollens.  A long time resident told me that Arizona used to be the perfect place to live for sufferers of allergies because cactus don’t have bothersome pollens.  The problem was, he said, that people realized that with water, you can grow so much and so plant, they did!  Believe it or not, in many cities in Arizona, there are ordinances against planting mulberry (male) and fruiting olives because of their designation as severe allergens.


The legal status of olive (and mulberry) trees is usually set by individual cities, explains Certified Arborist Cathy Rymer. For example, Section 39.9 of the City of Phoenix Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance states that no male mulberry tree (Morus alba) or olive tree (Olea europea) shall be sold or planted in the city. This is due to the large amounts of allergenic, airborne pollens they produce, which are considered noxious and contribute to human disease and health problems. However, the olive cultivars that don’t produce pollen, ‘Swan Hill’ or ‘Wilsonii,’ are allowed. 


In Sacramento here, we are the city of trees but that comes with a price.  It seems that people often plant without really thinking about the allergic consequences of some of our nursery favorites.  Some older neighborhoods had a requisite mulberry on every lot! My childhood memory of sneezing and sniffling was caused by many of these ill-conceived plantings.


Here’s a quick guide to the worst allergy offenders and some better alternatives.  Even if you yourself don’t suffer from allergies, consider that your family, your neighbors, your friends may have allergies to the pollens that these plants produce.    


Worst Plants for Allergies

Better Alternatives

Flowers and Herbs


Amaranth, chamomile, chrysanthemums, daisies, goldenrod, and even ordinary sunflowers!

Begonia, cactus, chenille, clematis, columbine, crocus, daffodil, dusty miller, geranium, hosta, impatiens, iris, lily, pansy, periwinkle, petunia, phlox, rose, salvia, snapdragon, thrift, tulip, verbena, zinnia.



Cypress, jasmine vine, juniper, wisteria.

Azalea, boxwood (if clipped often), hibiscus, hydrangea, viburnum.


Alder, Ash (male), Aspen (male), Beech, Birch, Box Elder (male), Cedar (male), Cottonwood (male), Elm, Hickory, Red and Silver Maples (male), Mulberry (male), Oak, Olive, Palm (male), Pecan, Pine, Polar (male), Sycamore, Walnut, Willow (male).

Apple, cherry, Chinese fan palm (female), fern pine (female), dogwood, English holly (female), Bradford pear, crepe myrtle, hardy rubber tree, magnolia, pear, plum, red maple (female).



Bermuda, Fescue, Johnson, June, Orchard, Perennial Rye, Redtop, Salt Grass, Sweet Vernal, Sweet Timothy.

St. Augustine.


Source:  http://www.webmd.com/allergies/best-worst-plants

I am very happy to report that my allergic reaction to Spring has since subsided (through years of allergy shots as a child).   I’ve gone on to become a voracious gardener. In writing this post, I discovered to my dismay that some of my favorite plants are allergy inducing…to others.  My apologies.  I’ll be looking at replacements sometime soon.  I also found this handy online lookup that may help you find plants that are easier for everyone to live with and enjoy.  http://www.pollenlibrary.com/ 

I also just read that Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared that the drought is over!  Woohoo.