Fall Allergies and the Ragweed Plant

by AngelaJohnson

Ragweed Pollen Can Make You Feel Miserable. One ragweed plant can produce over a million grains of pollen every day!

Ragweed is easy to overlook because the flowers are tiny and light green, which blend in with the plant's green leaves. There are basic two types of ragweed; common ragweed and giant ragweed.

This weed comes up when soil is disturbed. When a plot of land is cleared, ragweed is one of the first plants to sprout up. Its seeds can still germinate for decades.

Ragweed pollen is lightweight and spread by the wind. Once you learn to identify ragweed, you'll see it growing in fields, ditches, vacant lots, alleys, along sidewalks and railroad embankments, and other places.

Goldenrod blooms the same time as ragweed, but has bright yellow flowers. So when people start having allergy symptoms in the fall, they often think goldenrod is causing it because their blooms are so bright and visible. But goldenrod's pollen is heavy and spread by insects, so it's not to blame for fall allergies.

About Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

ragweed Common Ragweed is also called Hay Fever Weed, Bitterweed, Blackweed, Carrot Weed, Roman and American Wormwood, Stammerwort, Stickweed, and Tassel Weed.

Common ragweed can grow up to five feet tall and is found in fields, gardens, roadsides, and waste lands. It's an annual, living only one season, but it produces many seeds. Seeds can lie dormant in the soil for decades, but will still sprout  when soil is disturbed.

Ragweed flowers are small and yellowish-green and make huge amounts of pollen. Pollen is lightweight and spread mostly by wind and only partly by insects. 

Common ragweed can compete with crops and cause yield losses. Some aggressive herbicides may work against common ragweed, but will also affect nearby plants.

Ragweed can be overgrown by turf grass and other perennial plants that grow every year. Farmers often plant small grains in rotation and overseed with clover to suppress ragweed.

 

Photo by burntchestnut 

About Giant Ragweed (Ambrosia trifida)

Giant RagweedGiant Ragweed is also called Great Ragweed, Bitterweed, Bloodweed, Buffalo Weed, Horse Cane, and Horse and Tall Ambrosia. Native Americans used the fiber from the stems to make thread and rope.

It grows in disturbed areas near woodlands, fields, near rivers, thickets, vacant lots, abandoned fields, poorly drained waste lands, and along roadsides and railroads.

Giant ragweed can grow up to 16 feet in ideal conditions. Plants prefer full sun to light shade, moist conditions, and fertile soil. It will also grow under drier conditions and in poorer soil, but the plant will be smaller.

Just like common ragweed, giant ragweed’s pollen is spread by the wind. If you are allergic to common ragweed, giant ragweed will also affect you.

Because the giant ragweed’s seeds have a harder coat, fewer types of birds are attracted to this weed.

Giant ragweed can crowd out crop plants and reduce yields. It’s hard to get rid of this weed with herbicides. You can mow it and then plant other grains right away to compete with the ragweed when it comes up again.

Photo by Mike_tn on flickr 

How to Identify Ragweed / What Are Its Medicinal Uses?

About Ragweed Pollen and How to Avoid It

ragweed plantRagweed is only behind mold in causing allergic symptoms. The ragweed flower normally blooms from early July until the weather gets cold. One ragweed plant can release up to a billion pollen grains.

The pollen grains are microscopic – approximately 20 microns in diameter (or 1/25,000th of an inch). Ragweed pollen is spread by wind, so it’s easily ingested or inhaled and even brought in on clothing or your pet’s fur.

Reactions to ragweed pollen can include coughing, runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes and/or skin, swollen nasal passages, swollen or teary eyes, rashes and hives. Some people may even suffer from asthma.

What Can You Do if You’re Allergic to Ragweed Pollen?

~~ Track your area’s pollen count on television, radio or newspaper, or go to the National Allergy Bureau website.

~~Stay indoors as much as possible and keep your windows closed. Keep your car windows closed when you’re driving. If you have to go outside, try not to go out on windy days or in early morning (between 5:00 am and 10:00 am) when pollen count is usually highest.

Be aware that pollen can come indoors on your clothes, your pet’s fur, or other objects you bring inside. If you’ve been outside during pollen season, bathe right away and wash or brush your pet (perhaps someone else will do it for you). Machine dry your clothes – don’t hang them outside.

~~ Try an over the counter antihistamine medication.

This works for many people although side effects can include drowsiness or dry mucous membranes.

~~ Try immune therapy. This is where a doctor gives you a shot of the same allergen that causes your allergic reaction, but in a much diluted form. Your body creates an antibody response against the protein, sort of like vaccinating you from the irritating substance. Unfortunately, you have to go in for shots from every week to once a month and when you stop the shots, the immunity usually ends, too. This can still be a good method for people with extreme allergic reactions where over the counter medication doesn’t work. 

~~ Buy a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) air purifier. HEPA purifiers are specifically designed to capture micron to sub-micron matter. Since HEPA filters capture particles as small as 0.3 microns in diameter and ragweed pollen is 20 microns, they will absolutely capture ragweed pollen grains. You need to purchase an air purifier that will handle the size of the room. It’s also important to maintain the filter and replace it at regular intervals.

If you can’t purchase a HEPA air purifier, a HEPA filter attachment for your air conditioner can help, too.

~~ Take a vacation where there isn’t likely to be pollen, such as on the beach or on an ocean cruise.

Photo by burntchestnut 

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HEPA Air Purifiers Will Capture Ragweed Pollen

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Ragweed Benefits Wild Life

Quail and Pheasant Thrive on Ragweed

image of ragweedRagweed produces nutritious seeds for wildlife, especially pheasant and quail.

The wide leaves that branch out provide a good place for chicks to hide under and escape birds of
prey. As they stay hidden from predators, they can run around and feed.

Ragweed attracts many insects which have high protein content. Pheasant and quail hens can eat the insects and also bring them to their chicks.

Ragweed seedlings come up from May through July. The flowers are formed from July to September, and the seeds mature around August until the first frost. The seeds give wild birds something to eat during the cold winter months.

Planting ragweed in fields has helped to increase quail and pheasant populations. Plant it during fall or winter. After it grows, disk the field each year. When the weeds aren’t as abundant, seed again.

Photo by Burntchestnut.

How To Get Rid of Ragweed

ragweed growing in a fieldChemical spraying will usually get rid of ragweed quickly, but you probably will have to use an aggressive herbicide in order to kill it.

Remember that herbicides kill all other vegetation it touches, too, and can run off and affect other neighboring fields and lawns.

Mowing is another way to control ragweed. Mow it continuously because ragweed will regrow in about two weeks if there’s even as little as a half inch of stem left. Keeping the ragweed mowed will also prevent it from flowering and later making seeds.

Uprooting ragweed is another option and should be done in late spring before it flowers and before it’s had time to develop strong roots.

Cutting and burning ragweed works best because the stems are killed and the plant can’t grow back. But burning does pollute the air and there’s always the danger of an out-of-control field fire. Cut down the ragweed and burn it only after the stalks have dried.

Photo by Burntchestnut 

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Updated: 10/02/2014, AngelaJohnson
 
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