Allergic Reaction Triggered by Woollygrass (Imperata cylindrica)
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Teri
Posted on: April 18, 2002

I’m a grower who has purchased from Richters for several years. My 2 yr old daughter had an extreme allergic reaction (actually triggered an asthma attack) after playing near Japanese Blood Grass that had just been pruned. It seems I have read somewhere that this grass can cause allergic reaction, but now I can’t locate ANY information! Do you know anything about this?

Japanese blood grass is another name for what we call in our catalogue "woollygrass", otherwise known botanically as Imperata cylindrica. The "blood" part of the name refers to the red colour of the ‘Rubra’ variety that is often sold for ornamental purposes.

There are reports that woollygrass pollen contains allergenic proteins. There is a research group at the Centre for Biochemical Technology in India that has been trying to characterize the allergenic properties of woollygrass pollen proteins. The group has been publishing their work; one report can be accessed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=10971115&dopt=Abstract

There is also a report of allergic contact dermatitis (skin allergy) caused by woollygrass. Among a population of individuals with intolerance to grass, a small percentage exhibited sensitivity to woollygrass allergens applied to the skin. The abstract of the report is available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=9255483&dopt=Abstract

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