Arizona Winter Allergy Misery Mystery

Non-stop sneezing, horrible itchy eyes, wheezing and coughing,  all during the one time of year when allergies are supposed to be hibernating!  The bermuda grass is still dormant, the weeds are frozen from the recent frost, and the citrus and Olive trees will not start budding for several months.   What could possible be causing all this allergy misery in the middle of winter?

The answer is Juniper and Cedar pollen. Although a few ornamental varieties of these evergreen trees are found in yards around the valley, they are not as numerous as Mesquite, Palo Verde, Palm, or Acacia trees.   However,  at higher elevation, varieties of Juniper such as Oneseed Juniper (Juniperus monosperma) or  Alligator Juniper  (Juniperus deppeana) cover thousands of acres in every direction surrounding Phoenix.    When conditions are right, a cloud of Juniper pollen is carried by the winds down into valley where it becomes part of the brown haze hanging over the city.

So if you are sneezing and itching in January and February in Phoenix, and are wondering what’s going on, look to the hills.

Alligator Juniper

Alligator Juniper Payson, Arizona