Come late spring in Moscow, just after the snow has subsided for the winter, another form of white, powdery substance blankets the capital of Russia, and it’s not what you think. The white stuff in question is called pukh, and it’s actually the pollen of the poplar tree. And when the powdery stuff is released into the air, it can be a visual site unlike any other, as well as a massively annoying allergic trigger for most, causing hospitals to become overrun with allergy sufferers and creating fire hazards all across the city (imagine throwing a cigarette butt in a pile of cotton balls).
The problem can be traced to postwar planning by Stalin and later Khrushchev who, in an effort to green an otherwise grey, concrete jungle, decided to plant black poplars throughout the city — over 400,000 to be exact — to soak up carbon dioxide and provide greenery and shade to the populace. The only problem? The trees planted were almost all female, and when female poplars — how should we put this — get in the mood and aren’t satisfied, they begin to release their unfertilized seeds into the air. And when 400,000 of them do this at the same time, you get a blizzard of sorts.
And what lesson can we take from this? Perhaps the same rules applied to first dates, leaving the maternity ward, and adopting kittens should be applied to citywide gardening projects: check the sex before you do anything else.
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