Avoid Planting These Strongly Scented Trees If You Have Allergies

If you suffer from allergies, you’re probably well aware of the onset and duration of your personal allergy season. The tell-tale signs of itchy eyes, sinus inflammation, and sneezing indicate it’s time to check your antihistamine supply. You know there’s a quick trip to the drug store necessary to restock the complement essentials: tissues with lotion, eye drops, lozenges, and headache relief. For people who are exposed to multiple allergens like dust mites and tree pollen, or pet dander and ragweed, or some other combination of suffering, you may want to evaluate your property for the presence of heavy pollen producers or strongly scented trees.

There is a concept in allergy science called “symptom threshold,” which is, essentially, that some individuals may have no allergy symptoms until they have reached a sensitivity threshold created by the variety and frequency of their exposure. Some people can be sensitive to dust or dander but not enough to trigger a reaction. However, when compounded with other allergens, the load can push your immune system into the common allergy response. In this situation, it’s practical to limit your exposure to allergens and other irritants. Even some heavily scented trees, which may not be allergenic themselves, can exacerbate an already sensitized system.


Some of our favorite fragrances, the ones we happily buy as candles and closet sachets, also happen to be from trees that are some of the most offensive to allergy sufferers. Consider the western red cedar for example. We love its woody aroma in closets, drawers, and saunas, but as an assaulting member of your landscaping, it’s at the top of the list.

Cedars shed their pollen in late winter/early spring, and in Oregon, it’s abundant. The Oregon varieties are actually categorized as “false cedars,” but when it comes to pollen production, these are the real deal of scented trees. You may also be familiar with other cedar varieties, such as Alaska cedar, cypress, arborvitae, and giant-arborvitae.


Pine trees are included on the list, and it’s very easy to understand why. Anyone living within visual distance is likely familiar with the thick yellow “dust” that annually covers every single thing in your life. Park your car near a pine tree in spring, and you can sit and watch as the breeze picks up an enormous murmuration of pollen. It’s lovely despite the impending sinus doom.

Fun fact: pine pollen has been collected from the air samples taken at 2,000-foot elevation and 25 miles off the shoreline in North Carolina. So, even if you aren’t living under a pine tree, you may still be feeling the love. If you’re an allergy sufferer, you might want to have your trees professionally trimmed and pruned annually. The experts at Mr. Tree Services can handle the removal of debris and dead or damaged limbs, and they can determine if thinning could possibly reduce your tree’s pollen load.


Oak trees are classified as a primary source of allergens for people because the oak has very light, small pollen grains that are easily circulated in even gentle breezes. Also, oaks pollinate from February to the end of May, which also happens to be during the same period as pines. Remember that concept from earlier, symptom threshold? This is a quality example of where those boundaries may overlap. A person may have sensitivities to dust or dander, and then from late winter to the end of May, they’re inundated with seasonal pollen from cedars, pines, and oak. That’s not even taking into account grasses, ragweed, or nut trees like walnuts or pecans.

Addressing the Pollen

Once the pollen season has started, it can feel like the air is dense and angry. The beautiful landscape you have worked so hard to achieve is now a source of great frustration. So to start, it’s a good idea to take an inventory of your trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses to determine what kind and when your yard will be at its best and worst for your allergy concerns. Some of the worst pollinating trees, in addition to the cedar, pine, and oak are pecan, phoenix palm sycamore, willow, walnut, and mulberry trees.

If you have trees that are causing you physical distress, consider having them professionally removed. If you opt to do it yourself, plan to remove it off-season, or make sure you have good PPE and a quality respirator. Mr. Tree’s services include tree removal and clearing, and the experts here are committed to safety, efficiency, and excellent customer service.

Addressing the Strong Scents

After all the primary sources of pollen have been addressed, another thing to think about are strongly scented trees. They may not be blasting out pollen, but their fragrance may be an irritant. Imagine getting caught in an elevator with someone soaked in cloying cologne, and the overpowering scent triggers a headache or worse. For someone who is already suffering from sinus irritation, this can be torturous.

Our sense of smell is actively receiving odors that stimulate our olfactory sensory cells. When the stimulation is intense, sustained, and irritating, it can cause migraine headaches, nausea, and vomiting. If you know that you already have a vigorous pollen producer, you may want to avoid some of these strongly scented trees and shrubs as well: crepe myrtle, magnolia, dogwood, English holly, gardenia, hyacinth, jasmine, and lilacs.

These are highly regarded as landscaping features precisely for their fragrance and flowers. It may be true that the arborvitae perimeter and the magnolia focal point look stunning together, but maybe that aesthetic is not exactly worth the price of physical distress. It may be best to find an alternative that pleases without the pain. Working with nature can be challenging, and in today’s society, our lives don’t necessarily involve the outside world as much as in previous eras, so many may be more sensitive. The best response is to find a balance that works for you and your home and your allergies.

In Oregon, there is a staunch love for indigenous trees, shrubs, and plants. Fortunately, there are plenty of choices available. If you suffer seasonal allergies, but also love scented trees, talk with an arborist. An expert in trees can guide you toward something that you love but that won’t actively wreck your day.


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