A Closer Look At Botanical Sexism


Botanical Sexism

Tom Madden,  Founder & CEO, TransMedia Group

Reading one of my favorite newspapers, The Boston Globe, I came across a story about botanical sexism debunked.  

The Globe is one of the half dozen papers to which I subscribe, plus the mags and digital pubs, endless NBC where I used to work, then CNN and FOX TV.  Yes, being a news junkie, I like hearing both sides.  

You see, I owe so much to newspapers for whom reporting the news helped me to grow a career and raise a family, first at my hometown rag, The Press in Atlantic City, then at the Newark Star Ledger, then a huge hop over the Delaware River to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Back to botanical sexism, or the alleged planting of allergy-inflaming male trees and not allergy soothing female trees that one horticultural epidemiologist claims are worsening our allergies across the entire developed world due to an overabundance of pollen-spreading males.

If that were true, I’d be ashamed of my sex botanically, but thankfully it’s not.

Fortunately, the article in my Globe debunks that theory so I don’t have to cower walking past gardens anymore, where the culprit is not the trees so much as the grasses, which I guess are botanically unisex.  I don’t know for sure as I never look at grass below the hemline.  Yes, I’m too horticulturally discreet. 

Back to the delightful debunking.

My Globe called it a tantalizing, or at least an amusing idea that for half a century – don’t sneeze at this– urban foresters in league with the US Department of Agriculture are guilty of engaging in “botanical sexism” by preferentially planting male, rather than female trees.

The ersatz theory that male trees make us sneeze more by giving off more pollen turns out to be just plain old nose-itch nonsense.

In the years since this theory first surfaced, experts have disputed its alleged foundation being botanical sexism, along with nixing the notion that trees fit into a neat gender model altogether. 

A large share of tree species, numerous allergists and tree botanists say, are “monoecious,” that is they sprout both male and female flowers on the same tree. 

Last year, the debunked theory made a jump, thanks to TikTok, targeting or tickling Generation Z’ers.

“You’re sneezing and congested all day because of botanical sexism,” a TikTok user wrote in text superimposed emphatically onto a video that received nearly a half million likes.

“So, the patriarchy is also responsible for my allergies????,” an outraged allergic TikToker wrote in response.

A respected Boston University tree botanist called the dialogue full of hot air as female flowers capture only a minuscule portion of pollen in the air, so there’s no way they could favorably impact allergies, while male trees are hardly the mass allergy inciters as charged.  

You know what’s a bigger contributor to allergies than trees and maybe grasses too?  

Answer: Air pollution and global warming, which purportedly are unisex phenomena.  

Thomas MaddenAbout the Author: Besides an inveterate blogger, Tom Madden is an author of countless published articles, his weekly blog at MaddenMischief.com and five books, including his latest, WORDSHINE MAN, available on Amazon. He also creates TV series like his latest Xtra Terresla whose main character is modeled after Tesla founder Leon Musk, soon to own Twitter. Madden is the founder and CEO of TransMedia Group, an award-winning public relations firm.