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Ragweed causing allergy headaches

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013 10:25 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo courtesy the University of Illinois)
Blooming ragweed causes misery to allergy sufferers in September.

Many people are suffering from sneezing and sniffling right now due to allergies. While some are quick to blame the lovely yellow goldenrod, the culprit is really ragweed, said University of Illinois horticulture educator Candice Miller.

Ragweed is currently flowering in northern Illinois, releasing its lightweight pollen grains into the air by the millions. Each ragweed plant can produce an estimated 1 billion pollen grains.

In Illinois you’ll find two types of ragweed, both native annual plants. Common ragweed is found along roadsides, in cultivated fields, and in vacant lots and pastures. It grows 1 to 4 feet tall, with hairy stems and deeply-lobed leaves. It grows well in conditions that would knock out most plants.

Giant ragweed is 13 to 15 feet tall with coarse, rough stems and slightly hairy leaves of almost a foot long, with three or sometimes five pointed lobes. Giant ragweed can be found in cultivated fields, fence rows, roadsides and unmown construction sites.

The key to controlling ragweed is getting to the plants before they set seed. Get plants removed as early as possible this fall and remove any next season before they flower.

Gardening during allergy season can be a challenge. The most favorable conditions for high pollen are warm and dry; high humidity and rainfall lessen pollen release. Pollen levels are highest in mid-morning after dew has dried.

If you’re an allergy sufferer and go outside during the worst times for pollen levels, horticulture educator Sandy Mason recommends wearing gloves, a long sleeved shirt, a hat, and sunglasses or goggles. A pollen mask may be necessary. After working outside, take a shower and thoroughly wash your hair and clothes. Look forward to October; ragweed allergy season generally lasts through September.

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