Why can’t we get rid of the trees that cause ‘cedar fever?’

Weather & Traffic In-Depth

AUSTIN (KXAN) – People with cedar allergies are probably feeling it this week. We’re dealing with the highest cedar pollen count so far this season Tuesday, 24,875 grains per cubic meter, a little shy of the all-time record in Austin, which was over 30,000 grains per cubic meter. The last time we saw counts this high was this time last December.

Since “cedar fever” is such a problem, many people are looking for a solution. One that has been floated at least once by every cedar sufferer — get rid of the trees.

Why cedar pollen isn’t going anywhere

“A lot of folks might overboard. They might take out all of their Ashe juniper trees, which is not what we want to see,” said woodland ecologist Karl Flocke with Texas A&M Forest Service. Removing Ashe juniper trees, which are the source of cedar fever, won’t help your allergies.

First of all, there are just too many of them.

“They occur on almost 63 million acres of land, which is over a third of the state,” Flocke said.

Removing the ones that are nearby, say in your yard, won’t actually help your allergies.

“Because the pollen is spread by wind,” Flocke said, “the impact of taking out say, one tree from your backyard, two trees in your backyard, is not even a drop in the bucket.”

Flocke said that a strong cold front can even cause cedar pollen, which is very small, to spread hundreds of miles and even to other states.

Juniper is a native plant and essential to our ecosystem

When juniper is removed, it can actually be harmful.

“There are a lot of different birds, as well as some mammals, that will eat those juniper berries,” Flocke said. “The foliage is (also) consumed by insects, especially. Some animals (like) goats will (also) eat them.”

Flocke said the misconception that the trees are not part of our ecosystem is actually dangerous. Birds and animals use the trees for shelter and they help prevent erosion and flooding.

Removing them could devastate the environment. “Going out and just cutting down cedars because you’re suffering from allergies, while it might be therapeutic to take your anger out on them, it’s not a good solution to the problem.”

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