Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia


Yay its spring! Boo its hay fever season!

Being what my dear partner refers to as a ‘red headed asthma kid’ I’ve always been a bit on the allergic side. Nothing serious mind, but at certain times of the year I’ll make sure I’ve always got some hay fever tablets on hand. Sadly this year our daughter, who has up until now not been bothered by hay fever at all, is having a dreadful time of it.

Is this rye grass? I think so...but I really can't tell for sure!

The weather bureau did warn us that the wettest winter and spring for many a year would lead to a bad year for hay fever, and they certainly didn’t lie.

The problem is knowing just what it is that is causing the problem for her and finding our if there is anything at all that can be done to reduce exposure to it or to treat it.  Some plants are just so pervasive in the environment that there is no escaping them. Try getting away from grass going to seed in spring and summer for example. And of course it might not be pollen that is causing the allergy, but it is a very likely suspect right now.

On top of that some allergenic plants are not what you expect. I think I’ve mentioned before that Wattles (acacias) get a largely undeserved bad rap on the list of allergy suspects in Australia, but have largely been cleared. There is a lovely newsletter article from the Australian Plant Society here defending the much maligned wattle.

According to the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology, it is in fact the following plants that are known to most commonly cause allergic reactions in the Australian environment:

Annual Blue/Winter Grass, She Oak, Bahia Grass, Couch Grass (Bermuda grass), Bottlebrush (callistemon), Canary Grass, Cocksfoot/Orchard Grass, English Oak, Johnson Grass, Kentucky Blue/June Grass, London Plane Tree, Mango Tree, Murray Pine/ White Cypress Pine, Olive Tree, Paper-bark Tea Tree, Parthenium Weed, Paterson’s curse/Salvation Jane, Pellitory/Asthma weed, Plantain, Ragweed, Ryegrass, Silver birch, Timothy Grass, Wild Oat, Yorkshire Fog/Velvet Grass.

More detail from ASCI can be found here.

Callistemon. Friend or foe??

The plants I’ve highlighted in bold are ones I either have on our property, or can see if I peek over the fence. And they are the ones I can identify,or at least think I can. I have to admit I am particularly poor at identifying grasses, which is a shame, as they are a very common cause of allergy.

Rye grass is one that has been mentioned in several places, including this recent article from The Age newspaper as one of our major allergy causing problem plants. but I’m not sure I am correctly identifying it. I’ve been looking up images of it, but is still looks like well grass to me.

Some on the list really surprise me. Callistemon is one that I’ve never heard anyone talk about in the context of allergies and I’m a tiny bit suspicious of its inclusion. The Asthma Foundation tends to suggest that predominantly insect pollinated plants are generally a lot less of a problem then wind-pollinated plants.

The catkins of my silver birch are not mature 'not guilty' your honour!

I’ve heard of Silver Birch as a problem before, but for some reason I still feel inclined to look for a poor old wattle to blame rather than the three birch trees in my back yard.

On the other hand...the river birch is more advanced.

So, what (if anything) sets people to sneezing in your area when that time of year comes around?

See you next time,



Comments on: "Aaaaaaa-choooo!" (12)

  1. For me it’s Acacia in early spring, when all the trees explode in bloom at once. Then later in spring, it’s oak pollen. For some reason I decided to live in the middle of an evergreen oak forest! In my defense though, I had no idea I was allergic until AFTER we purchased the house 😉 Come summer the grass pollens kick up, which don’t bother me as much…but it seems that my seasonal allergies are bad most of the season!

    However, you have bees don’t you? Here a number of allergists suggest consuming a teaspoon of local raw honey every day (can’t get more ‘local’ than your own bees). Commercial honey won’t work, as it’s generally not local, and much of it has had pollen filtered out of the honey. The idea is that YOUR bees are foraging on the same plants, the same pollen, that YOU are allergic to in your environment. Consuming the raw honey gives you a gradual daily repeated exposure to those same allergens, and theoretically helps your immune system to build up a better tolerance to them. If our bees finally make enough honey come spring, I’m definitely going to try a spoonful of honey a day, as my allergies have been getting much worse the last few years. I’m with you…a-a-a-a-choooo!

    • Hello Clare 🙂 Yes, we do have one hive of bees and I had recently heard the idea that having some local honey might help. I’ll have to check in with the bee minder when the next little harvest is due. You’ll have to keep me updated on how it works out for you too as I guess avoiding oak and acacia where you live is no easier than avoiding grass in the dairy farming region here!

  2. Heidi, Goldenrod (Solidago) is a native plant in the US that gets a bad rap for allergies. It’s showy golden flowers bloom at the same time as its much less conspicuous green-flowered neighbor, ragweed (Ambrosia). It’s ragweed that causes the allergies, but Goldenrod that often gets blamed.

  3. For me its everything come spring, and most things come fall. The only non allergy drug months are December and January for me. Its so sad… a cruel joke, those people who never go outside and sit in front of their televisions 20 hours a day don’t have a single allergy.

    • Oh no Jess! I won’t feel so sorry for myself when I get the occasional bought of hay fever now, knowing that you have it almost all of the time! It is indeed a cruel joke that a keen gardener should have that to live with 😦

  4. My son has been the allergy suffer in our house. I can’t think of a time that he isn’t snuffling, but Autumn is the worst. Corn & it’s dust at harvest is frighteningly the worst culprit, which is a challenge around here – as the Midwest is the farming plains of the US. He goes to college in an agricultural town about an hour west of here – and it’s been a tough go of it. Good luck with the raw honey! I hope that is the ‘magic’ for you & Clare!

  5. HI Shyrlene, corn dust certainly sounds pretty hard to escape in your part of the world 😦 I hope your son gets at least some respite from it.
    I hope the honey treatment works too, but at least it’s a good excuse to get an extra spoonful of ‘home grown’ honey 😀

  6. Heidi, I don’t get hay fever consistently so i can never work out what causes it. VW in the USA has posted quite a lot about this topic, you might like to check out her blog. cheers, catmint

  7. Heidi, Same situation here, I don’t have a lot of problems but Liza does. Not sure what plant if any causes it or maybe its the trees. Grass and Hay can also be the problem. We have them all in our yard and around the neighborhood. Thought I commented on this post before, wonder what happen to it.

    Have a great day,

  8. Hi John, that is really strange because I remember you posting a comment too…I wonder where it went!
    Never mind, I hope that the next hay fever season isn’t too bad for Liza!

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