Tuesday, June 8, 2010


It's "pukh" season here in Russia. Also known as "Stalin's Pukh" and "Stalin's Revenge," pukh (literally "fluff" in Russian) is what Russians call the white pollen of the female poplar trees that the dictator ordered planted all over Moscow in the 1930s. It drifts off the trees in spring, making it appear on particularly windy days that the capital has been engulfed in a blizzard of cotton balls. I have tried to capture this phenomenon on film, but my pictures really don't do it justice. The photo to the left was taken on a particularly pukh-y day. If you look at the black car in the lower left and at the tree in the upper right, you can see some of the pukh.

Poplars are planted in many other cities in the world (I'm assuming), but not all of them have trouble with copious pukh. The problem is that, even in his infinite wisdom, Stalin planted exclusively female poplars. This means that there are no males to pollinate the female trees' seeds. Not knowing what else to do with their seeds, the female poplars release them into the air, raining allergenic white fluff down on the hapless population each year.

There is a metaphor here somewhere. Radical feminism, are you paying attention?

The pukh gets into everything. I have found it is a bit problematic for babies with sticky faces - Natasha has returned home from many outings with bits of pukh stuck to her cheeks. Apparently, it is also highly flammable. We've heard this from several people since we arrived, and I think it's only a matter of time before Jeremy takes a lit match to a pile of pukh just to see what happens. We'll be sure to take photos of that.


  1. We had a cottonwood tree in the yard growing up and it made a big white mess. It looked like piles of snow on the ground...

  2. It’s Friday, and that means that the Weekly State Department Blog Roundup is up – and you’re on it!

    Here is the link:

    (If I quoted your text or used your photo(s) and you would rather I had not, please let me know. Please also be sure to check the link(s) that I put up to you, in order to verify that they work properly. If you would rather that I had not referenced you, and/or do not want me to reference you in the future, please also contact me.)



Thanks for stopping by!