Allergies in the Netherlands: when and what?
Spring brings with it many wonderful things. Warmer weather, cute little lambs and all kinds of plants and trees that start to bloom. The downside of nature reawakening is that there will be plenty of pollen floating around in the air.
In a country with mild winters such as the Netherlands, the pollen season can start as early as December or January in some years, something that people with hooikoorts or, hay fever, will be all too aware of.
New country, new pollen
When you move to a new country and you are sensitive to pollen, you have an entirely new flora to get used to. Unless you come from one of the neighbouring countries in Western Europe, it’s not unlikely that there will be new and different sources of pollen.
So what are the culprits in the Netherlands? Which grasses, herbs, bushes and trees will make your eyes runny, your nose stuffy and give you sneezing fits?
With this handy guide you will know exactly which months will be the worst for your allergies in the Netherlands and where all these pollen come from.
Grass in the Netherlands
Grass pollen cause the most problems in the Netherlands when it comes to hay fever. There are 150 types of grass here, with perennial rye-grass or English ryegrass (raaigras) as the most common species. Other widespread grasses include orchard grass (kropaar), meadow foxtail (grote vossenstaart) and timothy-grass (timoteegras).
Because there are so many types of grass, when one stops blooming, another one will start. For this reason, the grass pollen season lasts a relatively long time. It begins in May and peaks in June, when many species bloom at the same time. Grass pollen can be in the air until September.
Herbs in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has a limited number of herbs that can cause allergies. Most of these herbs flower during summer or late summer, and the herb pollen season can last from May until September. Dutch herbs that cause hay fever include mugwort or common wormwood (bijvoet), various docks and sorrels (zuring), various plantains or fleaworts (weegbree) and different species of ambrosia.
Trees in the Netherlands
The birch, hazel and alder are the trees in the Netherlands that give people with allergies the most grief. Here is an overview of the most common Dutch trees that cause hay fever:
Common hazel: January - April
The common hazel (Corylus avellana), or hazelaar in Dutch, flowers from January to April. The pollen from hazel trees are considered to have a moderate to high potential for causing allergies. In the Netherlands it’s found in and around leafy forests, and it’s used in hedges.
European white alder: February - March
The European white alder (Alnus incana), or witte els, is a tree that’s often planted along streets in the Netherlands. It typically flowers during the latter part of winter, from February to March, and its pollen is highly allergenic. During mild winters it can bloom as early as December.
Black alder: February - April
The black alder (Alnus glutinosa) or zwarte els, is also known as the common alder, European alder or just alder. It’s found all over but has a preference for wet soil such as the vicinity of lakes and ditches. It has a moderate to high potential for causing hay fever. Like the white alder, it is one of the first trees to produce pollen in the winter months.
Osier: March - April
The basket willow (Salix viminalis) or katwilg, is also known as the common osier or osier. It’s typically found on the shores of rivers and bodies of water. It produces pollen in the months of March and April and has a low allergen rating.
European yew: March - May
The English or European yew (Taxus baccata), is a conifer that’s common all over Europe. It produces pollen between March and May. It’s called ijf or venijnboom in Dutch and can be found along creeks and rivers. It’s also a popular tree for parks and gardens in the Netherlands.
Birch: April - May
The birch (Betula) or berk blooms in April and May. Out of all the trees and shrubs that produce pollen in the Netherlands, birch tree pollen is the most allergenic.
Canadian poplar: March - April
The Canadian poplar (Populus x canadensis), blooms in March and April. In Dutch it’s called the Canadapopulier or Canadese populier. Its pollen is mildly allergenic. The tree produces large amounts of white, cotton-like fluff that carries its seeds, but this is not what causes problems for people with allergies.
European hornbeam: April - May
The common or European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), or haagbeuk, can be found in the Netherlands in hedges and as trees. It flowers in April and May and its pollen is mildly allergenic.
Beech: April - May
The Beech (Fagus sylvatica), or beuk, produces pollen in April and May and is mildly allergenic. Beeches can be found in forests and are frequently planted along streets and boulevards in the Netherlands.
English oak: April - May
The English oak (Quercus robur) is also known as the pedunculate oak or French oak. In Dutch it’s called the zomereik, or summer oak. It produces pollen in April and May and is mildly allergenic.
Ash: April - May
The ash (Fraxinus excelsior), European ash or common ash is called es in Dutch. It flowers in April and May and is moderately allergenic. The ash tree is typically found in wet areas close to rivers and bodies of water.
Scots pine: April - June
The Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) is also known as the Scotch pine, and is called grove den or pijnboom in Dutch. It’s a native species of northwestern Europe and likes to grow around sandy areas. This pine tree flowers between April and June and its pollen is only mildly allergenic despite being produced in large amounts.
Sweet chestnut: June
The sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) is called tamme kastanje in Dutch (tame chestnut). The tree grows predominantly in leafy forests, especially in hilly areas, but can also be found in plenty of Dutch parks and gardens. The sweet chestnut produces lots of pollen in June but is considered to be only mildly allergenic.
Linden: June - July
The lime or linden tree (Tilia x vulgaris) is called Hollandse linde in Dutch and blooms in June and July. It’s a very common hybrid of the Zomerlinde and Winterlinde, which also grow in the Netherlands. The pollen is mildly allergenic, and the tree can be found in parks and along streets.
Cedar: September - October
Cedar trees (Cedrus), or ceder in Dutch, are not native to the Netherlands. Cedars flower in September and October and can be found in parks and large gardens. The pollen is moderately to highly allergenic.
Pollen forecasts for the Netherlands
There are also Dutch apps for Android and iOS that provide up-to-date information about pollen in your area, and as an added bonus you will get to learn the Dutch names of the things you’re allergic to!
Are your allergies better or worse since you moved to the Netherlands?