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Rekindle Your Wild Joy and sense of deep Belonging through spiritual ecopsychology and the arts, incl. bioregional awareness, animistic perspectives, strategies for simple living, & low/no-tech DIY fun.

Beautiful Allergens June 21, 2010

Once I was camping on an offshore island in the Atlantic when we learned a big hurricane was due to hit. Being a westerner with experience in earthquakes but not in hurricanes, I felt great trepidation about this. We listened to emergency radio broadcasts so we could determine where our location was along its path, and decided to hunker down there rather than risk the ferry ride back over open sea to the mainland.

It turned out that the storm had begun to turn aside a few hundred miles below ours on its path out to sea, so we only got smacked by the tail end as it curled on by. But holy cow, even that was unbelievably windy and wet. I was sleeping outside in a zipped-up bivy sack, and at one point it felt like I was parked beneath a waterfall; like someone was standing directly over me and dumping buckets of water out right above my face. The hurricane’s power was awesome and the experience the fodder for some great complaining adventure tales. (As all travelers know, the most miserable experiences make the best stories – after they’re over.)

Later, back in a town, someone pulled up satellite images of the hurricane. The point I’m getting to is that when we got to see the storm from the perspective of above instead of in the middle of it, my attitude toward it changed. When seen as a whole entity, this hurricane was an enormous creamy white and blue moving spiral, like a galaxy made of water. I was awestruck. If I had to die young, I thought, a person could do worse than to be done in by such glorious beauty.

Yep, this is the one! Hurricane Dennis, 1999. (Image: Wikimedia commons)

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As above, so below; in the small the great. Relatively few of us get smacked by hurricanes, but many of us suffer from allergies.

Now the magic of electron microscopy can show us the beauty in this as well.

Sailing the tiny seas, “Micronaut” Martin Oeggerli has found a way to capture these gorgeous photos of pollens, showing us a glimpse into one of the remotest ecosystems left to explore.

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Forget-me-not pollen (Image: micronaut.ch)

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Daisy pollen (Bellis perennis). (Image: micronaut.ch)

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What is pollen exactly?

To put it in simple terms, pollen is a seed plant’s equivalent of pre-ejaculate and sperm. (If you’re shocked, go further and ponder Loren Eiseley’s mind-blowing notion that flowers invented sexual desire as we know it! But I digress.)

Pollen consists of powdery grains and a hard shell that holds them; you can imagine it as being sort of like a capsule vitamin. The pollen grains (microgametophytes) produce the male gametes or sperm cells, and the pollen shell protects the sperm cells while they’re being transported from flower to flower. The pollen grows on a flower’s stamen (the part in the flower’s center that sticks out like a penis, capped by the anther), and are taken by bugs, birds, winds & sniffing noses to another flower’s pistil or carpel, the the equivalent of a yoni with its ovary buried deep inside.

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As nature loves to experiment, pollen grains show as much diversity in their sizes and shapes as mammalian penises. Some pollen grains are equivalents of whale or horse penises, large and smooth; others like cats’, small and barbed. Some pollens are shaped like balls; others like coffee beans, dragonfly heads, or doughnuts, all of which can be witnessed below:

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Petunia pollen grain (Image: micronaut.ch)

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Babiana (S. African plant) pollen grains on an anther. (Image: micronaut.ch)

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Pine tree pollen

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Pollen grain from an Akazia or Myrtle Wattle (Photo: micronaut.ch)

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You might think that the prickery looking ones would cause the worst allergies, irritating the sinuses. But surprisingly, some of the smooth ones are terrifically allergenic to humans. Witness the Alder tree’s pollen:

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Oeggerli’s photographs, more of which can be seen at his site, www.micronaut.ch, offer this small consolation:

Pollens might make our noses miserable, but hey, at least they’re beautiful.

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Birch pollen grain (Image: micronaut.ch)

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One Response to “Beautiful Allergens”

  1. Lane Says:

    Tina, You’re one of a kind…..Thanx
    Lane Tietgen


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