When one thinks about the Olive Tree, it may be as an ancient symbol of peace, a delicious fruit used as a sandwich topping or in a salad, or as a versatile kitchen cooking oil. Unless you live in an area populated by these specific trees, you may not think about copious amounts of wind-blown, sneeze-inducing pollen but this is what comes to mind for many residents of Arizona when they think of olive trees.
Each year, these trees are responsible for hundreds of cases of allergies and respiratory problems. Olive trees were first planted in Arizona because, not only do they do well in the hot desert climate, they add a luxurious feel to any landscape. However, it did not take long for Arizonans to realize that the small, innocent looking flowers produce massive amounts of pollen capable of provoking severe allergic reactions in those who find themselves near or downwind of the trees. In addition to the large amounts of pollen, falling fruit covers the ground around the tree every year and will rot and cause unsightly stains if not efficiently cleaned up.
Arizona used to be known as a haven for those who suffered from seasonal allergies. The dry, warm dessert air offered temporary relief from pollen found in other areas of the United States. However, largely due to the import of these pollen producing exotic trees, this is no longer the case.
When the officials of some counties realized what a problem these landscape accessories were becoming, they moved to introduce bans on further planting. The first ban was imposed in 1985, and since then several counties have joined the movement against the planting of new olive trees. While this has certainly helped the pollen issues in Arizona, the ban is not state-wide, and it also does not require the removal of existing trees. While these implemented bans have certainly cut down on the problem, existing trees still create a copious amount of allergy laden pollen each year and have the potential to outlive several generations of Arizona residents. The olive tree has rightfully earned its place on the list of the top ten longest living trees, with some estimated at being thousands of years old. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent the trees from producing fruit, which cuts down or even cuts out pollen production.
Olive trees can be sprayed with a compound designed to lessen or even prevent the trees from bearing fruit. No fruit means no flowers, no flowers, no pollen. Depending on both the weather and the condition of the tree, spraying is done yearly between the months of January and April. Reducing pollen means that Arizona can again become a haven for allergy relief. And, while yearly spraying can be costly, so is tree removal and treatments for allergies and other respiratory ailments. Also, spraying is a great compromise for those who still enjoy the aesthetic qualities of this knotty and exotic tree.