ATHENS, WV (WVNS) — Pollen. A springtime hazard many of us can’t escape however, in all its misery, pollen is a necessary part of our ecology.

Spring in Appalachia is a beautiful time but for some of us, it’s best viewed from inside a filtered, air-conditioned home. Car owners also grumble when walking out to their cars only to see them covered in pollen. Enough to make anyone frown.

So why pollen? What exactly is the natural purpose of this sneeze-inducing spring mess? Concord University Biology professor Dr. Tom Ford has the answer, albeit not an appealing one.

“Well, pollen is the male sex cells of plants. And because plants are generally dormant in the winter, starting in the spring, those temperatures are warming up they start to reproduce. And so if you want to think about it pollen are males, uh, male plant sperm. I’m not sure you want to think about it that way, but that’s what it is.”

Dr. Tom Ford, Concord University Biology Professor

So, these plants need pollen, but they also need a way to transport it leading to the emergence of pollinators.

Dr. Ford said, “So insects and birds that for flowering plants, they get the sugar reward from the flowering plants and in returned plants, get the pollinator birds and insights to transfer the pollen. So there are a large number of insects and birds that rely on flowering plants.”

And of course, good old chance can help plants pollinate by spreading their pollen on the wind. How we mostly interact with pollen by nostril invasion or the required weekly car wash. For the unique topographical and climatological region, we find ourselves in, our spring pollen season is a little longer than most.

“So the average temperature as you go up in elevation obviously is going to be cooler. It takes a little bit longer in spring for it to get to the temperatures that the plants like to come out of dormancy and start to leaf out,” Dr. Ford said, “and then also to flower out because many of the plants that are shedding their pollen are flowering plants.

Regardless of our grumbling feelings towards the spring pollen season, without pollen, we’d lose our flowers, an entire industry of Appalachian agriculture, and the basic requirements for life as we know it. In that perspective, I guess we’ll simply have to suffer through the rest of the spring allergy season once again.