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What the fluff?! Floating catkins explained

Spring in Beijing is short, lovely and covered in white fluff

Spring in Beijing is lovely, full of beautiful flowers of all kinds and, in the next few weeks, covered in white fluff. The annual invasion of drifting catkins looks pretty at first but then, when you're out trying to enjoy your happy warm spring days, it's suddenly in your eyes, in your nose, in your mouth when you're trying to talk or, you know, breathe.

Beginning in the 1980s, around 3 million poplar and willow trees were planted along roadsides throughout Beijing with little to no attention paid to tree gender ratio. That wasn't a problem up until a few years ago when tonnes of the female trees reached their mature period, causing a catkin-aggedon.

Dramatic re-enactment. GIF: Giphy.com.


Luckily, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Landscape and Forestry has been on it. According to state news agency Xinhua, authorities stated that 'Beijing will plant no more female poplars or willows in its urban area in the next five years to reduce catkins.' As female trees are the ones that produce the fluffy fuzz, a decline in the number of female trees should help alleviate the issue. So, in 2017, the government decided to trim and treat 400,000 female willow and poplar trees in a bid to reduce catkin production. Last year, another 300,000 female trees were subject to sterilisation.

Will this year see yet more trees de-sexed? Or has the gradual reduction of reproductive trees helped reduce the white tide of allergens? Whatever the future holds for catkins and their mummas, the annual incursion often proves rather irritating for those of us with allergies (and even those without). Make sure to take your meds, wear a mask, cover your beer as you sit outside, get out on the streets to campaign for tree-gender-reassignment-surgery or just pretend it's snow and enjoy.

Attempt to live your best life, just like this fluff-loving floof. GIF: Giphy.com.

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