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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - June 23, 2010

From: Orion, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Seeds and Seeding, Trees
Title: Cottonwood trees shedding in Orion MI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How long can I plan on my cottonwood trees (wild) shedding long wide cotton strips? This is a first for my trees. Usually it is fluffy small puffs.

ANSWER:

Populus deltoides (eastern cottonwood) is native to Oakland 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 your 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. 

We have no idea why the "cotton" is in long strips instead of little puffs. Perhaps the tree is now more mature? 

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 the Image Gallery


Eastern cottonwood
Populus deltoides

Eastern cottonwood
Populus deltoides

Eastern cottonwood
Populus deltoides

Eastern cottonwood
Populus deltoides

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