What is pollen?

What are the Pollen Seasons in North Carolina?


What is pollen?
Pollen is the tiny powdery granules given off by plants in order to carry out their reproductive process. Specifically, it is the male element in the fertilization of seed plants. While not harmful to those not allergic, it makes pollen-allergic individuals miserable.


Allergy, Asthma and Sinus - Pollen Count


When are the pollen seasons in North Carolina?






March – June



Mid-to-late SPRING – FALL

May – August


Primarily August – Frost


Weather Conditions

The amount of airborne pollen is affected by local weather conditions. Dry windy days
increase pollen counts.Rainy weathertemporarily decreasespollen counts.


NAB (National Allergy Bureau) releases pollen and mold counts in various locations.  Click on counts.  Use the map at this site to view the mold and pollen counts nearest your residence or travel destination.


Check pollen counts by putting in a zip code.


Click the Air Quality Forecasts Tab.  Check ozone levels and fine particles in the air for various locations in North Carolina.


  • FALL Allergy Season
  • Air pollution
  • Mold Spores
  • Changeable Weather Conditions
  • High Pollen Counts    


The late summer and fall presents the allergy-asthma sufferer with a host of potential symptom-causing factors.  Air pollution, mold spores, or changeable weather conditions sometimes combine with very high pollen counts during late summer and fall.


Ragweed Pollen
The male element for the fertilization of seed plants is pollen.   The method by which pollination is accomplished profoundly affects the allergy sufferer.  Seed plants can be broadly categorized under two methods of pollination, namely insect-pollinated plants and wind-pollinated plants.


Plants primarily pollinated by insects are usually the most attractive and the most noticeable, but these plants cause the least misery.  Plants relying on insects for pollination need to produce relatively small amounts of pollen and little of it is airborne under most weather conditions.  Insect-pollinated plants are not a major source of airborne pollen and are not responsible for the majority of allergy/asthma symptoms.


Wind-pollinated plants typically are the least attractive plants, produce light-weight pollen that is carried easily by the wind, and cause the most misery for allergy and asthma sufferers.  Since these plants depend on wind and gravity to carry out the reproductive process, pollen is produced in large amounts so that sufficient pollen is airborne to carry out the life-cycle process.




Brightly colored flowering plants are primarily insect-pollinated with very little airborne pollen. Inconspicuous plants, such as ragweed, are primary wind-pollinated since they have no brightly colored flowers to attract insects.


Airborne pollen is inhaled as we breathe and for most people this is not a problem. However, people who are genetically predisposed to developing allergies are at increased risk with each exposure of becoming sensitized to pollen.  The number of exposures required to develop an allergy to a particular substance varies according to the individual, the potency of the allergen, and the amount of exposure.



Ragweed Pollen is . . .

  • abundant
  • potent
  • airborne
  • lightweight
  • easily inhaled


Ragweed produces abundant pollen (each plant produces about a billion pollen grains per season) that is potent, lightweight, airborne and easily inhaled.  The official date for the beginning of ragweed season in the U.S. is August 15.   Donald Pulver, M.D., with expertise in the study of pollens and molds and Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says that “diminishing daylight and increasing night length stimulates the ragweed plant to pollinate.  It’s nature’s way of letting plants know to reproduce for next year.”  Ragweed pollen peaks in September in our area and is in the air during October.  It can extend to November in warm climates. Ragweed season ends with frost.


Ragweed is sometimes confused with goldenrod which has bright yellow flowers.  While ragweed is less conspicuous than goldenrod, or other plants with obvious blooms, it is a potent allergen that affects pollen-allergic individuals in late summer and fall.


There are more than one species, but Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), pictured above, is the most widespread in our area.  Common Ragweed has a lower woody stem with leaves in opposite pairs that looks like an upside down Christmas tree.  The flowers are inconspicuous, small, and yellowish-to-greenish color.  They are set in small heads with male and female flowers in separate heads.


An important cause of hay fever in the United States, it is located on roadsides and in fields, pastures, and vacant lots; it can also be found in cultivated grounds such as yards or parks. Ragweed is related to chrysanthemums and to pyrethrum found in some insecticides.  Persons sensitive to ragweed may react from exposure to related plants and products.




What types of outdoor activity are especially bad for pollen-allergic individuals?
Cutting the grass is probably one of the worst things you can do. You get seven to eight times the exposure to grass pollen than if you were outdoors when the grass was not being cut. If you are allergic to mold or pollen and must cut grass, wear a painter’s mask or one of the high efficiency masks available through allergy product catalogues.


Raking leaves, gardening, or working with a compost pile exposes you to high levels of mold as well as pollen.