Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Evergreen plant to grow to 6 feet tall with flowers and non-toxic
November 04, 2013 - I live in South Texas, and in town. I am looking for plant that grows taller than 6 feet and is non toxic to people and pets. Would also like for it to be pest and disease free or minimal. Need it ...
view the full question and answer

Need to identify leaf extensions on the leaves of an elm sapling in Houston, Tx.
May 22, 2013 - I have an elm sapling which grows strange leave extensions on its leaves. Can I send you a picture? Tree looks healthy
view the full question and answer

Quercus polymorpha botanical name for Mexican white oak
June 19, 2007 - What is the scientfic name for the Monterrey Oak?
view the full question and answer

Identification of tree with outrageous thorns
August 10, 2014 - Can you identify this tree? It has these outrageous thorns on its trunk. They are in clusters and are anywhere from 1" long to 4" long or so.
view the full question and answer

What about Asian Jasmine and scrub oaks?
September 01, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have several clusters of native scrub oaks in my yard. I planted Asian jasmine under them many years ago. The trees look fine, but an arborist has told me that the Asian ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.