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A new botanical/horticultural term: amphientoanemophily

If one does extensive searches on the internet and in scientific literature he/she will continually find this erroneous advice (Wikipedia for example):  plants are pollinated by either the wind (Anemophily) or by insects (Zoophilous).

  In fact many flowering plants are pollinated by BOTH the wind and by insects. Certain flowering plants are only pollinated by a particular species of bat or bird or in a few cases, by some other small animal such as a native mouse.

 There is no widely accepted word for this phenomenon of pollinization by both wind and insects, and because of the lack of a term for this, it is largely either ignored, or simply unrecognized. This might seem at first glance to be of little actual importance, however in landscape-allergy research this lack of an accepted proper term in the literature has caused, and keeps causing problems.

 The Internet has been wonderful for the exchange of data and ideas between scientific researchers, and having access to email and search engines has sped up many worthy projects. Unfortunately though, the Internet is also often responsible for spreading misinformation. When a well-intentioned writer publishes something on-line that states that plants are either pollinated by insects or by the wind, and that only wind-pollinated plants cause allergies .then there is a problem, for this is not true. The web, being as it is though, the misinformation is likely to quickly be copied and reprinted, over and over.

  Landscapers, arborists, landscape designers, city planners and others who are in charge of planting trees and bushes in urban areas read this misinformation and then (without realizing it) they plant landscape plants that they believe to be non-allergenic, only insect-pollinated, when in fact they are pollinated by both insects and the wind and are allergenic. If these are planted in close proximity to where people live, work, shop, play or go to school, the result is an increase in exposed individuals, and hence, an increase in pollen allergies caused by proximity pollinosis.

 There are numerous examples of commonly used landscape plants that are frequently visited by pollinating insect vectors, generally flies or bees, but that also shed considerable pollen that easily becomes airborne if conditions are right (warm, dry and windy). Staminate flowers on male willow trees (Salix spp.) of all species will attract large numbers of insects, but these same flowers will also shed large amounts of pollen that can be trapped in proximity to these male trees.

  In many types of dioecious plants (separate-sexed) the flowers on the male plants will often attract insects that will indeed induce pollinization, however, many if not most of these same species will also produce pollen that will become airborne, and thus wind-pollinated. A prime example of this would be Red maple trees (Acer rubrum) where the attractive staminate (pollen-bearing) flowers on the male trees will draw many insect pollinators, but the trees will also produce large amounts of allergenic airborne pollen that can be trapped close to the producing tree itself. Another classic example of this, per allergy study, would be the California Pepper Tree (Schinus molle). This tree is always dioecious and individual trees will be either female trees (those that form the red  pepper  berries) or male trees (so-called  fruitless  trees). Male pepper trees produce huge numbers of tiny pollen flowers that are heavily visited by pollinating flies and honeybees. Nonetheless, if a pollen trap is put in close proximity to a flowering male pepper tree, large amounts of Schinus pollen will be trapped.

  The problem with the existing misinformation per the actual mode of pollinization of plants that pollinate by both insects AND the wind is not limited to the dioecious plants, but also is quite common in monoecious-flowered plants (an example would be Aesculus spp., i.e. Buckeye trees), and also in complete-flowered plants.

  A complete-flowered plant is one where both male and female functioning sexual parts are found in the same flower. A prime allergy-plant used worldwide in landscaping that is complete-flowered but that actually spreads its pollen by both insects and the wind would be the many species of Privets (Ligustrum spp.)

  All too often writers have looked at a large cluster of bright white privet flowers and noticed the many flies and bees visiting them. They have then written that privets are insect-pollinated. Because, as so often it has been written (erroneously), that insect-pollinated plants do not cause allergies, readers then believe that it is perfectly fine to plant privets right next to their front or back doors, underneath bedroom windows, or as hedges in and around school yards. Had these same writers placed a greased microscope slide near the flowering privets, they would soon enough have found considerable amounts of privet pollen on the slides, as privet is just one of many complete-flowered shrubs that although often pollinated by insects, is also pollinated by the wind.

  In truth, most totally insect-pollinated (Zoophilous) plants rarely are implemented as the cause of human pollinosis. That said, there are some exceptions even to this.

Plants that are strictly wind pollinated (Anemophily) such as Box elder trees or Podocarpus species trees or shrub, these will almost always be found to cause allergies when they are growing in proximity to large amounts of people.

Landscape plants that are pollinated by BOTH insects and the wind, these too are often found to be the source of pollen-allergies, but almost always only when they are growing in relatively close proximity to the affected individuals.

 In order to be able to write about this phenomenon that directly affects the health and quality of life of literally many millions of people living in urban environments around the world, we need a new word; we need a new term. Words that mean many things, all neatly wrapped up into one word, these are useful words, and they are tools for writers and researchers. An example that has always had some appeal to this writer is the German word strassendorf. While it is just one word, it means a great many words. Roughly, this word translates to mean:  a town or city that is all built along one main road, having very few side roads.  A person driving through a strassendorf town might think that the town is much larger than it actually is, but if the driver gets off the main road through the town, quickly it is discovered that there isn t much else to the town. A strassendorf town may seem large, but it lacks depth.

  The word, strassendorf, is useful because it is economical. Rather than write that some burg:  is not really very large, but appears to be because almost all of it is built immediately on or right next to the main street .25 words to say that .but were we to write that the burg was strassendorf, ah, that says the same thing, and uses only one word.

  The new, greatly needed pollen-allergy research word I propose here is amphientoanemophily. Yes, it is a long word, and at first glance, with four syllables, a bit hard to pronounce (try saying it:  amphi  ento anemo  phily).  Amphientoanemophily translates to mean: pollinated by the wind and also by insects. Amphientoanemophily is a truncated version, largely from the Greek....amphi (both) ento (insect, abbreviated), anemo (wind) and phily, meaning liking, loving, tendency toward, attraction to (doing something). In crafting this new word I got considerable help from the writer and historian, Vicki Leon, who is well versed in a great many languages, including Latin and Greek. Ms Leon is perhaps best known for her large, bestselling historical series, Uppity Women.

 To any biologists or botanists or pollen experts who find fault with this term, I encourage you to contact me, as I am always open to creative and constructive criticism. I enter this new word, amphientoanemophily (and of course, it s adjective form, amphienthoanemophilous) into the vernacular of pollen-allergy literature with a bit of trepidation.  A decade ago, from need of something to use, I used the term  amphiphilous  to mean the same thing in an article I wrote. I was, amazingly, only called on this by one scientist, who accused me of  making up this word,   but by the time we were done exchanging emails, he seemed, if not actually liking it, to be at least okay with it. As I ve said here, there has been no well recognized scientific term for this phenomenon, and there needs to be one.

 Amphiphilous, that term I wrote into an article a decade ago, has made the rounds on the Internet, and looking for it now, I find it used in a number of books, including Pediatric Allergy, Principles and Practice, Second Edition, where this is written:  Box elder is entirely wind-pollinated, and a prodigious pollen producer, while other maples are amphiphilous, both insect and wind pollinated.

  Of that I d say, well, if indeed I did coin the word amphiphilous, I am honored to see it being used in such classic allergy literature as Pediatric Allergy. However, they are not entirely correct in what they write there about Acer, the maples. In fact there are some other maple species that are also almost entirely wind-pollinated (Silver maple, Acer saccharinum being the best known).

  Considering that the word amphiphilous is now used on thousands of websites, perhaps it is best that we now write the better definition of  pollinated by both insects and the wind,  to be amphientoanemophily, or amphientoanemophilous, synonym amphiphilous.

Health researcher and consultant Thomas Ogren is the author of five published books and hundreds of articles on health and gardening. His work combines the three disciplines of medicine, botany and horticulture. The creator of the only numerical plant-allergy scale, OPALS, used by the USDA, his papers have been published widely in newspapers such as the New York Times, and in magazines like New Scientist. For more information, or to contact Mr. Ogren, his website is

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