" 'Pukh' gets in your eyes; ... not to mention nose, throat and soup. Soviet-era trees unleash a blizzard of fluff each June, writes the Tribune's Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriquez, 13 June 2008, Chicago Tribune
Every June, showers of pukh, white tufts of seed from Moscow's ubiquitous balsam poplars, swirl on summer breezes through every street, park and plaza in an aerial dance of downy fluff that dazzles first-time visitors to the Russian capital.
For most Muscovites, however, there's no aesthetic to pukh. There are only pukh-filled lobbies and hallways to sweep daily, pukh in your hair, pukh in your fish soup and, occasionally, a bit of pukh in the back of your throat.
Pukh is a plague that Moscow has been besieged by ever since the Soviets chose poplars as the fastest, cheapest way to spruce up parkways and courtyards for their working-class masses. Poplars grow fast, said Moscow ecology expert Anna Kurbatova, plus they're inexpensive to maintain and could withstand the soot-laden air that enveloped the Russian capital back then.
But for three weeks every June, balsam poplars produce airy white seeds that Russians call pukh, the Russian word for tuft.
Kurbatova, deputy director of Moscow's City Ecology Institute, said the societal upheaval brought on by Soviet rule made coping with clumps of pukh the least of worries. Today, however, Moscow is a city of billionaires and BMWs, a place where pukh has to be brushed off Armani suits and swept clean from swanky outdoor cafes. "