Wattle pollen is rarely the cause of hayfever or asthma. The persistent myth that it does, dispelled long ago by Australian immunologists, has been perpetuated with the help of self-serving advertising by some antihistamine marketing companies. And yet whenever there is talk of National Wattle Day as an alternative to Australia 26 January, someone inevitably comments about wattles and sneezing, hayfever and grabbing the tissues.
Research shows that it is more likely to be the fine, wind-blown pollen introduced grasses (Lolium species) in your lawn, or the pasture planted by farmers as a nutritious feed for livestock that is the problem. But in all fairness it is difficult to see the almost invisible pollen that these grasses produce in vast quantity before you breath it in. Much more obvious is the blooming wattles trying to attract insects and birds to carry their heavy insect-pollinated to another flower, blossom or plant.
Never-the-less this myth could well be negatively affecting people’s health because they are avoiding the wrong plants. It is also damaging to the environment as people who believe they are protecting their own health remove native Acacia trees and shrubs. They should be planting them instead to create low allergy gardens.
According to ASCIA – the peak professional body of Allergists and Clinical Immunologists in Australia and New Zealand. For example, ASCIA states (see https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergic-rhinitis-hay-fever-and-sinusitis/pollen-allergy) that:
“Trees usually pollinate in late winter and early spring…Wattle trees are frequently blamed for early spring symptoms but tests rarely confirm that Wattle pollen is the cause. There are many species of Casuarina or Australian Oak trees, which produce pollen throughout the year and may cause allergic rhinitis symptoms at any time of the year.
The National Asthma Council of Australia also advises on its website (Pollen triggers my asthma and allergies – National Asthma Council Australia) :
Problem pollen usually comes from imported grasses, weeds and trees, which are wind pollinated.
Australian native plants are usually not the culprit, although there are exceptions, such as cypress pine.
Allergies are not usually triggered by highly flowered plants as they produce less pollen (which is transported by bees) than wind pollinated plants.
So it’s not the wattles that you should worry about when celebrating any national day.