En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Cottonwood seed clogging air conditioner in Austin

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

Willow woes in Philadelphia, NY
August 22, 2010 - I have a 2 yr old willow; it is August and it looks like the tree has gone dormant, is this normal?
view the full question and answer

Hurricane damage on oak in Houston
April 01, 2013 - We have a very large oak tree that survived our last hurricane with lots of lost limbs. Then there was the drought. We have lost three large limbs on separate occasions on non-windy days. I love this ...
view the full question and answer

Trees to replace live oaks in Driftwood TX
February 07, 2012 - I am looking for ideas on what trees to plant in Driftwood, TX to replace live oaks that have been lost to oak wilt.
view the full question and answer

Unknown pest of Texas Mountain Laurel from Round Rock TX
May 24, 2012 - I have a Texas Mountain Laurel that is being denuded from the top down by something unseen. It's not the Genista moth larvae, as there are no worms and no webbing visible. The only clue that it might...
view the full question and answer

Bald cypress knees in leachfield from Ventura CA
March 20, 2013 - Hey, I planted a seedling 20+ years ago which has turned out to be a 40'bald cypress that's now 40'. I'm a native southerner and would hate to cut it down but it's putting up knees in my septic s...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center