Types of Pollen

Pollen Types and Their Impact on Hay Fever

With over 10 million people suffering from hay fever in England, it pays to be a pollen connoisseur. Yet, few people know which pollen type they’re allergic to. You might know you’ve got a tree pollen allergy, but are you sure which tree type you should be avoiding and when?

If you’ve already identified your pollen nemesis, why not discover your local pollen levels with our tracker. It not only gives you local pollen levels, but will also tell you what type of pollen is high.

We’ve taken a closer look at the types of pollen out there to help you narrow down which ones will have you reaching for the tissues.  

List of Pollen Types

Know your enemy. And for hay fever suffers, their foe is pollen – the fine, natural powder that helps plants to reproduce. While a lot of pollen is harmless, there are three categories that really get up hay fever sufferers nose:

  • Tree pollen
  • Grass pollen
  • Weed pollen


These pollen types can be carried by wind. And heaven forbid anyone who gets in the way. For those 13 million or so folk in the UK who have hay fever, their bodies see these wind borne pollen particles as an intruder and set the body to full ‘red alert’ mode.

These defences include sneezing the pollen out, watery eyes to wash the particles away, and a runny nose to clear out your nostrils. However, symptoms vary depending on what pollen type you’re allergic to.

If you have a serious pollen allergy or severe hay fever symptoms, it might be useful to speak with your GP or a specialist to help you identify your allergens.

Types of tree pollen

As you’d imagine, this is pollen from the flowers of a tree, Tree pollen actually has a few categories within it.

  • Birch Pollen. The dreaded birch pollen allergy is one of the most common. Birch pollen – which occurs from March through to June, peaking in April until May – can cause asthma and rhinoconjunctivitis (which is basically irritated eyes, nose and sinuses). These trees are easily identified by their white bark and can be found in lightly wooded areas.
  • Oak pollen. Also peaking in May, this is the next most common hay fever allergen with symptoms including a cough, watery and itchy eyes, and an irritated throat. Look out for tree pollen symptoms during spring when it’s released into the air during its peak.
  • Pine pollen. Pine trees are easily recognisable by their needles – and of course, remind us of all things Christmas.
  • Alder pollen. Alder trees like damp areas and are a yellow/red colour. Their pollen is very similar to that produced by birch, so if you have noticed a reaction to birch pollen you may wish to avoid alders.
  • Hazel pollen. You can spot a hazel tree by its smooth, grey-brown bark (which actually peels as it ages). It likes the edges of wooded areas.
  • Yew pollen. Like the sun itself, this tree is found mostly in southern England. Can be identified by its small needles and red berries.
  • Elm pollen. English elms have grey-brown bark, which is rough and often have suckers growing at the base of the trunk.
  • Willow pollen. Commonly found by rivers, willows are recognisable by their long sweeping branches and slender leaves. They have been found to have a low allergenic potency – but can still cause a reaction in those unlucky few.
  • Poplar pollen. They like moist conditions, so you’re likely to find them by water. Their bark is pale grey and has black diamond-shaped lines on it.
  • Ash pollen. Ash like a good water supply, so you can find ash trees near water – and they’re recognised by their smooth, greyish-brown bark.
  • Plane pollen. These trees have multi-coloured bark and are mostly found in cities across the UK. Plane trees are very popular in London.
  • Lime pollen. Found in parks and urban areas, mostly lining walkways, lime tree leaves are dark green and heart-like shaped.

Types of weed pollen

Weed pollen season comes to the UK with the sun – starting in late April and lasting through to the end of September, peaking in June through to August. Just like tree pollen, there are a few different types of weed pollens that can trigger hay fever, including:

  • Ragweed pollen. Ragweed is an upright plant which, when looked at closely (though not too closely if you’re allergic), has leaves that are fern-like.
  • Nettle pollen. A very common weed found across the UK, nettles actually cause few allergies (but do cause horrible stings).
  • Dock pollen. Found in meadows and some coastal areas, the pollen this produces can cause common hay fever symptoms (but they also help soothe a nettle sting, so swings and roundabouts).
  • Mugwort pollen. With the ability to grow over two metres, you’ll be able to spot mugwort by its red/brown colour and small flowers.
  • Plantain pollen. Not to be confused with the delicious banana like fruit, this is a short plant and its leaves are usually found growing directly from the soil.

Grass pollen season’

Grass pollen is thought to be one of the worst offenders when it comes to hay fever. The season for this allergy begins towards the end of spring (around May) and peaks at beginning of summer (June to July) – just as tree pollen starts to ease off – and ends at the beginning of autumn (September). So it’ll be a long sniffly summer for hay fever sufferers.

Common grass pollen allergy symptoms include irritated eyes, throat and nose. However, some other symptoms such as contact dermatitis (a form of eczema) and headaches can occur in people with severe allergies.

You may notice an increase in symptoms if you are around grass for long periods of time or when you cut the grass.

Check out our pollen calendar to see which pollen appears when, or just click on Your Pollen Pal for your local pollen forecast.


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