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?


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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - June 23, 2011

From: Bolingbrook, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Seeds and Seeding, Trees
Title: Ash tree shedding seeds early in IL
Answered by: Anne Bossart


I've lived in my house 13 years now and have a large and old ash tree in my backyard near my patio. The seed pods are ten-fold this year and are dropping constantly. I've never experienced this copious amount of seed pods and needing to sweep the patio daily and getting mounds of them in every sweep. Why are there so many falling early? I know that in fall they fall off and there were very many last fall too. My ash tree is located in a very damp area as the terrain in low there and gets lots of water.


You don't mention what type of ash you are dealing with, but it is likely Fraxinus americana (White ash) as it is the most common native ash tree.

It is notorious for shedding its seeds and for having disease and pest problems.  Taylor's Guide to Trees says,  "Seeds are numerous, sprout readily and can be troublesome in landscapes". This Green Guru concurs; I have several on my Ontario property and I spend a lot of time sweeping and raking up the seeds and pulling the seedlings.

Michael Dirr says in his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses

"One would wonder if the ashes have any value after reading the impressive list of insects and diseases, vigorous growing trees do not develop that many problems but homeowners should always be on the lookout and when something seems awry should call a tree specialist or seek help through their County extension office ..."

Generally speaking, when a tree produces a more copious amount of seed than normal it is due to stress (as a result of insect pressure, disease or cultural conditions).  The tree is making a last ditch attempt to reproduce in case it dies.

So we recommend you follow Michael Dirr's advice and consult an arborist or your County Extension Service to determine what the problem and appropriate action are.


More Trees Questions

Pecan tree dropping dead leaves
August 02, 2014 - I have a very old, tall pecan tree in my yard that has been dropping dead leaves for the last three weeks. My back yard looks like it is the Fall season. Do you have any insight on this?
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in tulip tree in Cincinnati
October 02, 2009 - I planted a tulip tree sapling (3 feet tall at the time of planting) in May of this year and it sprouted! Unfortunately, I believe the top portion (nearly 2 feet) did not make it (the sapling only spr...
view the full question and answer

Leaves wrinkling on Tecoma stans from San Antonio TX
August 16, 2013 - My two year old esperanza (planted in the ground) froze back last winter, came back from the roots & has been doing well all summer. Recently one branch has leaves that are nice & green but very wrin...
view the full question and answer

Will non-native and invasive Mexican petunias grow under oak trees from St. Augustine FL
March 24, 2013 - Will Mexican Petunias grow under an Oak tree?
view the full question and answer

Are Chickasaw plums evergreen?
August 13, 2014 - Are Chickasaw Plums evergreens? I've been very interested in planting a few but some websites say they are evergreens while others say the opposite. Furthermore, would I have to plant a male and fema...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center