Walking through a nursery can bring great joy as you pick out different plants and trees to decorate your yards with. In most cases, we’re drawn to the trees we find to be most visually appealing. While we consider some other factors, such as size (both height and width), fruit-bearing, or evergreen or deciduous, we don’t always consider how they’re going to affect our health. What we mean is, will the tree we choose affect our allergies? Trees offer so much—beauty, shade, clean air—but when summer comes around, they can also offer irritation if you don’t pick the right ones.
Luckily, there are some low-allergy trees out there that can bring joy without the irritation. Below are five dioecious low-allergy trees—ash, black gum, cedar, gingko, and red maple—and a bonus five monoecious trees you can plant in your yard and still be happy about the decision all year long.
Dioecious vs. Monoecious
When it comes to trees, they, like humans, can be different genders. What we mean is, some trees—dioecious trees—are either male or female. Like other species with two genders, a female tree needs a male tree to fertilize it in order to bear fruit. Male trees will have flowers producing plenty of pollen for the process of fertilization, while female trees will have fruit-producing flowers. For this reason, female dioecious trees can be ideal low-allergy trees for your yard. For more information on how to discern if a tree is male or female, contact a trained arborist at Vernon Imel.
Monoecious trees, on the other hand, don’t have a specified gender. They contain both male and female parts and produce both pollen and fruit. While monoecious trees have pollen, which can irritate our allergies, some are less allergenic than others because of their courser pollen, which we discuss later.
The American mountain ash is a deciduous tree that will provide beauty and interest through most of the seasons. During spring, this tree sprouts small, white flowers in flat-topped clusters. While their smell isn’t very pleasing, they do evolve into clusters of bright red berries in the summer, and the leaves turn yellow in the fall. Ash is a smaller tree, only reaching a height of 30 feet with roughly the same width, and it can be a nice variation to some of the taller trees to come.
Black gum trees are native to the eastern United States but tolerate wet conditions, are drought-resistant, and do well in planting zones 4 to 9. They are favored for their colorful fall foliage in shades of yellow, orange, red, and purple. Black gum trees mature at a height of 75 feet and a spread of 30 feet. These trees are relatively slow growers, so while you’ll eventually get some great shade from the black gum, don’t expect it to happen overnight. An added bonus to having this tree in your yard is that they don’t require a lot of pruning, so it’s not only allergy-friendly, it also takes less maintenance than others.
Cedar trees are a nice addition to the landscape because they’re evergreen conifers and will provide color and beauty all year long. Growing up to 80 feet tall with a spread of 50 feet, these trees do better when added to a larger yard, as they need space and plenty of water to thrive. Overall, cedars have a natural cone shape and don’t need a lot of physical upkeep because pruning can cause more harm than good. Ask a professional for assistance if the need arises to prune these low-allergy trees.
Red maples are a nice midsized tree to add to any landscape. They range from 40 to 70 feet tall and 30 to 50 feet wide. As their name indicates, they’re known for their red foliage. Not only are the leaves red in autumn, but in early spring, they also sprout little red flowers and helicopter seeds before leaves start to become apparent. Native to eastern and north-central US, red maple trees are one of the favorites for landscaping all over America due to their color and relative ease of care. These trees fare well in dry or wet landscapes and aren’t susceptible to many insects or pests. With their large, full canopies, they offer great shade for outdoor summer games and activities.
The gingko biloba tree is a large fall favorite. Growing anywhere from 50 to 80 feet with a width of 30 to 40 feet, this tree is hardy and provides nice shade throughout the summer. It has a slim trunk to start but can get quite large as it ages. The tree has uniquely fan-shaped leaves that turn golden yellow as autumn sets in. Overall, it stands up well to pollution, and because of its tolerance to salt, the gingko tree is a good choice for landscapers near the ocean. Something to remember when choosing a female gingko is that the fruit-like seed ball it bears, when pollinated, can have a strong odor. Also, when these seed balls fall, they make for a messy cleanup.
While female dioecious trees are the ideal low-allergy trees, identifying female trees can be a challenge. Since not everyone wants to take on that challenge, we wanted to include five monoecious tree options for you to consider. Not all pollen is created the same, and finer pollen spreads with ease, increasing the likelihood of setting off our allergies. So we focus on monoecious trees with coarser pollen like crabapple, dogwood, fir, spruce, and tulip trees. These are other acceptable options to consider for the allergy-conscious tree shopper.
Other Factors to Consider
Remember that picking trees for your yard can be a lot of fun but also should include a good deal of research. Not only do you want low-allergy trees, but you also want trees that will do well in your planting zone, soil type, available yard space, and more. Since you’re not likely to be choosing new trees again soon, we suggest talking to trained arborists, like those at Vernon Imel, to learn more about which trees will do well in your landscape.