Two closely related plant groups, that contain several hay fever producing species, are the Pigweed and Goose-foot families. It has been reported that persons sensitive to one member of either family are usually sensitive to all the members of both families. The important members of the pigweed family are the tumbleweed, rough pigweed, careless weed, and western water hemp. They are numerous in the states west of Missouri and Iowa. Their period of pollination occurs from July to September. As a group the pigweeds are considered to be a very minor factor in the cause of hay fever but in any local region where they occur abundantly you should avoid them.
The Goosefoot family includes Russian thistle which is plentiful in Denver. It is also commonly found in the middle and western states of the United States. It produces a large quantity of pollen from July to September. The plant is widely spread because of its tumble-weed character. When the seeds are ripe, the stem breaks and the plant is tumbled about by the wind. Russian thistle has spread its hay fever effects from Michigan to Washington. It takes root in any kind of soil and is frequently seen along roadsides, embankments and other out of the way places. It is fast spreading and becoming an increasing cause of hay fever in more populated areas.
Lamb’s Quarters is another member of the Goosefoot family. This one seems to havé been overrated in its hay fever effects. Its leaves take the shape of a goose foot as do other members of this family, which accounts for the name. This plant is more widely distributed than its close relative, Russian thistle. It also favors waste places, but is less abundant and distributes less potent pollen than Russian thistle.
In southern Arizona the salt bush, is considered a major cause of hay fever. This member along with shad scale, red orach, and silver scale are important in the southwest-ern states of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and California. Fortunately for hay fever sufferers these species are most numerous in desert regions where people are scarce. Their pollen has been indicated as being quite irritating to sensitive persons. Pollination occurs during August and September.
UNRELATED HAY FEVER WEEDS
To further plague the hay fever sufferer there are a few miscellaneous weed families that have to be guarded against.
Of this group, English Plantain is the worst offender. With its broad leaves and long stems topped by dense flowering heads it looks and functions like some of our grasses. It is not only found as a weed in waste places but also inhabits lawns, pastures and clover fields. Like many grasses, plantain begins to pollinate in May and continues into July and August. Many persons who believe they have grass hay fever are sensitive only to the plantain weed. The plant is found to be sparsely spread throughout the United States and Canada.
MEET THE BUCKWHEATS
A family known as the Buckwheats have two offspring whose wind borne pollen occasionally cause hay fever symptoms. The two culprits are called sheep sorrel and curly dock. Innocent sounding names and harmless in appearance, they are sometimes eaten as greens and are grown in kitchen and truck gardens. Nevertheless they come from a family of poisoners. Many persons develop a rash from eating foods made from buckwheat flour. Other members of the Buckwheat family seem to contain a sub-stance which gives animals a photosensitive poisoning. That is, the animals eat the buckwheat plant and when the suns rays are absorbed by the animal the poison acts, causing the animal’s face, ears, and eyelids to swell and itch. This reminds us of the sensitivity to sunlight that is experienced by hay fever sufferers at the height of their symptoms.
Curly dock and sheep sorrel are spread rather thinly throughout the United States. They are known to be rather common around Ithaca, New York. They have been reported as a minor cause of hay fever in the west coast states. Like the plantains, they pollinate during May, June and July, causing symptoms at the time of the grass hay fever season.
SMOKING AND DRINKING THE WEED
You may not know it, but the weed smoked by drug addicts gives off pollens that cause hay fever. This weed is a member of the Hemp family. It is known as marijuana, hashish, loco-weed and hemp.
The dried leaves of the hemp plant are smoked in cigarettes and pipes by drug addicts. Like other such narcotic drugs, it produces a temporary feeling of happiness which is later followed by depression. Habitual use leads to eventual breakdown of the nervous system.
The name loco-weed is derived from the peculiar actions of animals noted by farmers after the animals have eaten the weed. The family name of Hemp is` ascribed to the fact that its stalks are used to supply fiber for twine, cord and hemp.
Where the plant is cultivated commercially it produces pollens profusely enough to cause hay fever during July and August. Hemp occurs in waste places throughout the United States. It is grown as a crop in Mississippi, the Missouri valley, and west to New Mexico.
Another hay fever plant that is in the Hemp family is known as hop. The hop plants give off hay fever producing pollens during July and August. They grow as a vine with rough, herbaceous, long, twining stems. They are found growing wild, in thickets and hedgerows on moist or swampy soil. The plants may be located in river banks, marshes and alongside of streams throughout the United States. The hops are cultivated as crops chiefly in the Pacific coast states. The seed grains of the plant supply the bitterness and aroma to “hops” used in brewing. And so, together, the Hops and the Hemps supply humans with smokes, drinks and hay fever.