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

Ligustrums planted last summer are doing poorly in Houston, TX.
March 06, 2012 - I planted large mature ligustrums trees (~ 8 ft) last summer and the leaves are turning yellow and falling off. Can you please tell me what the cause of this might be and what we can do to prevent th...
view the full question and answer

Disappearance of leaves on desert willow in Tucson AZ
August 08, 2009 - We have a Lois Adams Desert Willow (Tucson, Az). The leaves will pump out and then a day or so later, all of the leaves are gone. The only bugs we've seen on it are very, very small ants. Could this ...
view the full question and answer

Live oaks dying in Austin, TX?
February 03, 2011 - I had my live oak trees trimmed in October(it had been over 5 years) by a reputable Austin company. The tree canopies were not very thick to begin with, but throughout the winter, some trees have los...
view the full question and answer

Pruning a Wafer Ash to make it upright
February 11, 2005 - How do I trim a Wafer Ash? It lays on the ground. Is that normal? Does it need to be upright?
view the full question and answer

Native trees to replace dying Arizona ash (Fraxinus velutina)
June 06, 2008 - I have two 25-30 year old Arizona Ash trees in my front yard, which I think are dying. They are the only shade my house gets, and I am dreading losing them. (They are massive and beautiful) What are m...
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