Wednesday, May 26, 2010

American Smellscapes: Spring in the Pacific Northwest

It’s the time of year when the cottonwood trees in Washington State release tons of fluffy airborne seeds. As Seattle Times reporter Lynda V. Mapes describes the phenomenon she keeps her nose to the breeze:

That downy fluff is only one of the tree’s signatures. Come spring, just about anywhere there is fresh water in Puget Sound country, the sweet scent of cottonwood is in the air, the perfume that kicks off the out-of-doors season. The source of the scent is a flavonoid in the sticky sap within the tree’s buds that coats the leaves of cottonwood as they unfurl, protecting them against insects eager to attack the first fresh leaves of the year.
Meanwhile, a property owner in Harrah, Washington had some manure from a local feedlot spread on an acre or so of his fields. Nearby residents complained about the smell and since Harrah is on the Yakima Reservation, the U.S. EPA sent an Air Quality Monitor to sniff around for violations of federal regulations.

So let’s get this straight. Food scolds Alice Waters and Michael Pollan want us to eat locally grown fruits and vegetables and locally raised meat because it’s ecologically correct. But if local manure spread on a local field smells bad, that’s politically incorrect according to the environmental nannies.

I love green-on-green family feuds. Time to microwave some artificially flavored popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show.


La Bonne Vivante said...

I'm originally from Montana, and there too the smell of cottonwoods was the true harbinger of summer! And allergies....

EdC said...

We have very tall trees in my neighborhood in Rochester that are dumping a layer of cotteny white fluff all over the place. It covers whole lawns. I'd assumed it was cottonwood, since that's what I knew growing up in Texas. But I'm not getting any smell. Does anyone know if there are different lines of cottonwood, with and without the flavenoids? Or something else similar?