Green Horizons

Volume 5, Number 2
Summer 2000

Hidden $$$ in your forest: Pollen provides profit

Tree pollen can cause allergies, but who would think that it has any value? Well, for the few landowners who take an interest in it, pollen can have you sneezing all the way to the bank!

Plant pollen should not be confused with bee pollen and its health food aspects. Tree, shrub, grass and weed pollens can be collected. They are used mainly for production of allergenic medicines and allergy testing. There are only a few processors of tree pollen in the United States and most are associated with large pharmaceutical companies. These companies collect pollen with their own staffs operating under the guidance of a professional botanist. They also purchase raw material (pollen) from a relatively small number of trained collectors located throughout the country. These pollen collectors harvest flowering structures from trees and shrubs on their own land as well as other private land owners. The pollen collectors pay private forest landowners a percentage of the value of flowers harvested, offering the fortunate landowner an opportunity for annual income.

Pollen can be a valuable non-timber forest product. The pollen gathered in this pan is worth about $30,000.

Pollen collectors are actually "flower collectors," and pick over a short 6-8 week period in the spring, based on the need of the processing companies. Only the male flowers or portion of the flower (Anther) is utilized, but most collectors pick and sell the entire flower structure. The greatest volume of pollen is collected from species that occur over a large geographic range and produce large amounts of wind disseminated pollen. It is this pollen to which people are most commonly exposed.

During the collection season, collectors may work long hours and require specialized equipment. In most cases, tree pollen collection should be considered only as a supplemental income possibility. For this reason many pollen collectors are involved in other businesses such as tree service, forestry, medicinal plant collection, seed collection or farming.

Collectors partially dry the flowers prior to shipping to the processors. They are usually paid on a weight basis for their dried flowers. Rates are based upon the historic yield of pollen and the market value of the processed pollen. Prices vary for different species, but the species price is fairly constant from year to year. Collectors normally receive in the range of $5 to $40 per pound of dried flowers.

Once the pollen is cleaned and processed, it can be stored for several years. Thus, the processing companies will purchase large quantities of a species that exhibits an unusually large crop in a particular year. Processed pollen must meet exacting standards for purity and is sold to pharmaceutical companies who further refine it into liquid extracts.

Flowering structures are harvested by several different methods:

If you are interested in becoming a pollen collector, State forestry agencies and state Cooperative Extension services may have information about pollen collection activities in their respective states. (This paragraph edited on the web; October 10, 2003)

Below is a list of tree species from which pollen extracts are manufactured. This listing is for general information only, may not be all-inclusive, and may contain species not purchased by all processing companies.
Shelby G. Jones, consulting forester

Tree species from which pollen extracts are manufactured
Common NameScientific Name(s)
Acacia Acacia spp.
Alder Alnus rhombifolia/rubra/velutina
Ash Fraxinus americana/pennsylvanica/velutina
Aspen Populus tremuloides
Beech Fagus grandifolia
Beefwood Casuarina equisetifolia
Birch Betula fontinalis/lenta/nigra
Bottlebrush Callistemon citrinus
Boxelder Acer negundo
Cedar, Mtn. Juniperus sabinoides
Cedar, Red Juniperus virginiana
Cedar, Salt Tamarix gallica
Cottonwood Populus trichocarpa/deltoides/fremonti
Cypress, Arizona Cupressus arizonica
Elm Ulmus americana/pumila
Eucalyptus Eucalyptus spp.
Hackberry Celtis occidentalis
Hazelnut Corylus americana
Hickory/Pecan Carya ovata/illinoensis/tomentosa
Juniper Juniperus californica/scopulorum/osteosperma/occidentalis
Maple Acer macrophyllum/rubrum/saccharum/saccharinum
Melaleuca Melaleuca leucadendron
Mesquite Prosopis juliflora
Mulberry Morus alba/rubra
Oak Quercus agrifolia/alba/dumosa/gambelii/rubra/velutina
Olive, European Olea europaea
Palm, Date Phoenix dactylifera
Palo Verde Cercidium torreyana
Pecan Carya pecan
Pepper Tree Schinus molle
Pine Pinus echinata/ponderosa/strobus
Poplar Poplar alba/deltoides/nigra
Privet Ligustrum vulgare
Russian Olive Elaeagnus angustifolia
Sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua
Sycamore Platanus occidentalis/racemosa
Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissima
Walnut Juglans californica/nigra/regia
Willow Salix discolor/lasiolepis/nigra

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