Dr. Sarah Taber has shut down widespread misinformation shared by a TikToker who claimed "male trees are a capitalist scam" and have caused an uptick in hay fever.
TikToker Tom Ogren claimed that the cities planted "male trees" so their citizens wouldn't have "free fruit." This excess of "male trees," according to Ogren, results in tons of pollen to be released without "female trees" to catch it. According to Dr. Taber, a crop scientist and ex-farmworker, this simply isn't true. Surprise.
Dr. Taber explained in a Twitter thread:
Taber broke down Tree Sex Ed 101 for us, and shed so much light on these misconceptions.
She started with the fact that most tree species are both male and female, meaning they produce pollen and have the ovaries to catch it.
Perhaps the best quote from this thread read:
"Trees do not respect the human gender binary."
"You could say the reason we have so much pollen is not landscaping, capitalism, or 'botanical sexism,' it's just that trees are super f*ckin queer. And you would be right."
Further debunking the false narrative about street trees, Taber said pines, oaks, maples, and other shade trees that have both male and female flowers and ragweed and other "soft" weeds are the biggest culprits when it comes to allergies.
"Also the idea that all that pollen floats around because 'there aren't enough tree p*ssies to catch it' is WOW, I love it."
"In a 100% gender-balanced forest you'd still have ~8 bazillion pollen grains for every ovary because pollen is just a lot cheaper to grow than eggs."
"Pollen is so cheap that trees can afford to make extra. Like, a LOT of extra."
"Wind pollination is also imprecise! You don't have bees that are gonna carry the pollen to its destination for you."
"It's a game of numbers. You gotta make clouds of that sh*t to land any on a seed."
Wind pollination is essentially evolutionary and "plain old math," as Taber put it.
She also debunked the idea that fruit trees in an urban orchard would be a good idea. Taber said that orchards can cause a mess, which can lead to rats and flies. Orchards meant for tourism have extra funding to keep up with the landscaping and the mess.
She explained why fruit trees in urban settings would be a disaster:
Then she really brought the hammer down on Tom Ogren.
Taber elaborated on how Ogren used fear to push people into believing his lies:
"Like, the more I look at his stuff the more it looks like he's tapping into a lot of people's anxieties around sex as much as he is around capitalism."
"Take it from an ex-mormon, sexual scare tactics just make everything weird."
"Ogren doesn't just take advantage of people's ignorance about plant sex."
"He's actively encouraging it so he can make money. He's also taking advantage of people with a real problem, allergies, & selling them fake solutions."
"Again, to make money."
The real reason for the increase in pollen is actually... climate change.
Taber linked to a YouTube video by SciShow that breaks down why allergies are worse with the increase of carbon dioxide emissions, leaving yellow pollen dust on your cars and window sills.
Sadly, there's nothing sexy about climate change.