Fe­males win botan­i­cal bat­tle of the sexes

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

The age-old ques­tion of which is the su­pe­rior sex has a new twist: For land­scap­ers who want to help al­lergy and asthma suf­fer­ers, the fe­male def­i­nitely rules.

That’s ac­cord­ing to a self-taught botanist who claims that bring­ing out the fem­i­nine side of your gar­den can help tame sea­sonal al­ler­gies and asthma.

Thomas Ogren’s latest book, The Al­lergy-Fight­ing Gar­den: Stop Asthma and Al­ler­gies With Smart Land­scap­ing, of­fers tips for land­scap­ers who want to make their out­door ar­eas more friendly to­ward al­lergy suf­fer­ers. The crux of the land­scaper’s ad­vice is sim­ple: When­ever pos­si­ble, use fe­male plants in­stead of male ones; many plants have male and fe­male ver­sions.

Male plants pro­duce the pollen that ir­ri­tates many al­lergy suf­fer­ers, and un­for­tu­nately, they’ve been overused in mod­ern land­scap­ing be­cause they’re cheaper, Ogren said.

But fe­male plants not only don’t pro­duce pollen, they ac­tu­ally trap it, turn­ing it into seeds.

Smart land­scap­ers should use fe­male plants, self-pol­li­nat­ing plants like fruit trees, or flow­ers such as or­chids that solely de­pend on in­sects for pol­li­na­tion, Ogren said.

Hos­pi­tals in par­tic­u­lar need to step up so they’re not ir­ri­tat­ing sick pa­tients, Ogren said. He ar­gued that smart, city­wide land­scap­ing ought to be con­sid­ered in pop­u­la­tion-health man­age­ment be­cause less air­borne pollen could mean lower healthcare costs.

“It seems like health in­sur­ers are kind of miss­ing the boat by not jump­ing on this,” Ogren said. “It looks like it could save a lot of mis­ery and it looks like it could save a lot of money.”

The fe­male taxus bac­cata, or English yew, top right, would be an al­lergy-fight­ing al­ter­na­tive to the male ver­sion, bot­tom right.

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