En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Sunday - June 06, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Cottonwood seed clogging air conditioner in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My husband and I recently moved into a rental house that has a very tall cottonwood tree in the backyard. It has been shedding its seeds all over our yard since the beginning of May and seems to still be going full speed. It looks like snow, but snow that clogs up our A/C unit. I would like to know how much longer it will probably be seeding (we are in south Austin, 78744) and if you have any suggestions for our landlord as to how we can save our A/C unit from being constantly clogged.

ANSWER:

Populus deltoides (eastern cottonwood) is native to Travis County and its seeds have long been the bane of anyone living around it. In particular, those flying puffs of cotton are extremely allergenic. The cottonwood itself is not very popular, as it tends to drop big limbs, has large roots, and weak wood. It grows very fast, particularly in a moist area, and you can still see them coming up in creek beds in Texas. We found a website from Hortiscope Questions on Cottonwood that has all kinds of good information, including the name of a product thought to inhibit the cotton production. We were never able to find any information on how much longer the cottonwoods will be flying cotton in the Austin area, but the above-mentioned website said that it usually lasts about 4 weeks. Depending on where the tree is growing, of course, that will be earlier or later in the Spring than now. 

In terms of a filter for the air conditioner, that is out of our line of expertise. We recommend you or your landlord contact an air conditioning contractor. If there are many cottonwoods around, you can bet this is not the first time this question has been asked, and the contractor should have some sort of solution.

By the way, after many questions on how to stop the cotton flying, the author of the article we referenced, Ron Smith, Horticulturist for the North Dakota State University Extension Service, said the only way he knew of was to cut the tree down.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Populus deltoides

Populus deltoides

Populus deltoides

Populus deltoides

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Trimming of Escarpment Oak from Austin
May 18, 2014 - We have a 2-year-old quercus fusiformis in our front yard and have been advised by some people that we need to remove the bottom branches and trim the ends of the branches that are hanging far down. ...
view the full question and answer

Can a soapberry tree be grown in Colorado Springs?
May 04, 2010 - I live in Colorado Springs and I was wondering if it is possible to grow a soapberry tree here?
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in my Nuttall Oak tree in Moore, OK.
July 23, 2009 - I had a Nutall oak tree planted; it is 5 inches in diameter and about 24 feet tall. It was planted in March of this year, leafed out ok; now since June 20th I have had a large quantity of the leaves t...
view the full question and answer

Live Oak Mess in Liberty, TX
April 09, 2015 - Should I leave the pollination debris that has fallen from my 3 historic live oaks on the ground surface beneath them or use a leaf blower to remove.
view the full question and answer

Non-native crape myrtle resistance to deer from Annapolis MD
April 06, 2013 - Is Crape Myrtle tree resistant to deers? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center