AUSTIN (KXAN) — The current cedar season has already broken multiple records — and driving allergy sufferers crazy in the process.
But there’s one thing you may not know: cedar isn’t the one responsible.
“Basically, they’re junipers is what they are,” says biologist Robert Edmonson with the Texas A&M Forest Service.
“In the central part of the state we deal with Ashe Juniper. That’s what everyone calls cedar.”
According to Edmonson, Ashe Junipers are unusual amongst tree species because individual Ashe Juniper trees have different genders.
“You can tell the male trees because they’re starting to turn an orange color right now. Its all of those little pollen cones on the ends of the branches. The female trees are the ones that produce those blue berries.”
Male trees release the pollen that drives allergies wild.
“What happens is these trees produce copious amounts of pollen. There’s just so much of it in the air that it just overwhelms your immune system.”
Edmonson says there are likely more Ashe Junipers in the Hill Country than any other tree species.
“If you go west of Austin, its very rocky and there’s not a lot of soil. Juniper does very well in this soil because they’re very resilient,” says Daphne Richards, horticulturist with Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service.
“Their roots can hang on in very low amounts of soil and grow where you think a tree might not grow.” Richards says this resilience is common among coniferous trees, like the Ashe Juniper, most of which release their pollen in the winter.
This winter is, of course, a little different.
Determining the source of your symptoms may be a little different. Edmonson says a runny nose is uncommon with COVID-19 symptoms. If you’re not sure: check your mucus.
“With allergies, your mucus will be clear. With other infections, you’ll tend to have color,” says Edmonson.
Cedar season peaks in January and ends by March.