For hay fever sufferers, spring brings a wild array of different pollens – including one that looks like Mickey Mouse!
Pine pollen is a relatively large pollen grain – you may have seen it coming off trees in brilliant yellow clouds (or coating your windscreen), and so to compensate for its weight, it has developed ‘ears’ (air sacs) to help it fly long distances on the wind. Pine pollen has been found as far away as Antarctica! This three-dimensional model shows the grain and air sacs in more detail:
Because of it’s distinctive shape under the microscope, pine pollen is a favourite among novice pollen counters. This mutant pine (with three air sacs instead of two) was a bit trickier to identify –