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

Magnolia in West Virginia ?
July 07, 2015 - Hello, is the Dwarf sweet magnolia a native shrub to WV?
view the full question and answer

Care of butternut trees (Juglans cinerea) with bumpy growths
June 12, 2007 - I have two small butternuts, around 3-4 feet. One has developed very 'bumpy' reddish growths on the leaves that are actually stunting their growth. What do you think it is and what can i do to sto...
view the full question and answer

Large tree and smaller specimen tree for Austin, Texas
May 01, 2007 - We are in the process of removing two Silver Maples in our front yard planted by the previous owner of our house. We live close to the Wildflower Center and have very shallow soil on top of rock. We...
view the full question and answer

Precautions regarding pruning live oaks in the Austin area.
October 27, 2015 - Is it still recommended that we clean pruning shears and spray wounds when pruning live oaks in the Austin area?
view the full question and answer

Life span of pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica
May 12, 2015 - Do you have any data on the lifespan of pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) under urban conditions where is Not subject to seral succession (trees won't be permitted to overtake it)? On the other hand ...
view the full question and answer

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