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How Long Do Cottonwood Trees Shed? (Explained)

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Despite not having any cottonwood trees in your yard, many of you possibly have experienced a large quantity of fluffy white cotton lumps around your home and yard which at one point can seem to be an annoying issue.

As a result, your annoyed self certainly would like to know how long these cottonwood trees are going to be shed. So, let’s straightly jump into the answers to find out it.

How Long Do Cottonwood Trees Shed?

Cotton fluff happens to last for just two weeks, so the cottonwood trees shed a large amount of all those fluffy white cotton for only about two weeks a year that tend to spread as far as 5 miles. However, cottonwood trees don’t shed cotton every year, they only shed once a year after another. 

The shedding of cottonwood trees is nothing but the signature parachute-like fluffy white cotton that is basically the cottonwood fruit with cottonwood seeds.

And naturally, cottonwood trees tend to shed an enormous amount of white fluffy cotton covering areas as far as 5 miles away from the tree for two entire weeks in late April/early May or June/July 

Usually, after getting matured, every year cottonwood trees produce fluffy soft cotton. But rest assured that cottonwood trees don’t shed cotton fluff every year, as they tend to preserve this cotton fluff with seeds for the next time. 

Thereby, the year the cottonwood tree is about to shed the cotton fluff will last for only 2 consecutive weeks.

So the tree is supposed to shed massively and cover landscapes for those 2 weeks only once a year. And the following next year, the cottonwood tree surely will produce white cotton fluff but will not shed.

Do Cottonwood Trees Shed Every Year?

Cottonwood trees do not shed their cotton fluff every year, even though cottonwood trees naturally tend to grow their signature cotton fluff every year after the time being of their full maturity. 

Usually, cottonwood trees shed cotton fluff once in two years. Simply to say, if the tree sheds cotton fluff for one year, it will not shed again in the next year. Rather, the cottonwood tree will preserve its cotton fluff in the next year along with seeds. 

When Do Cottonwood Trees Shed Their Cotton? How Often Do Cottonwood Trees Shed Cotton?

The year a cottonwood tree sheds its cotton fluff, the cotton fluff gets ready to drop in either late April or early May. If the tree doesn’t shed between this period, it will end the cotton shedding by June or July. 

And the cottonwood trees shed cotton once in two consecutive years, this means if a cottonwood tree sheds cotton in the present year, it will not shed the next year. Because it’s the natural habit of cottonwood trees that not to shed two years in a row. 

Why Do Cottonwood Trees Shed?

Cottonwood trees shed because through cotton fluff shedding, the mother tree spreads cotton seeds everywhere around it so that new cottonwood plants can grow. 

After reaching maturity, the female cottonwood tree produces white cottony fluff that is mononymously known and used as cotton.

And this fluffy cotton contains cottonwood seeds produced by the female/mother cottonwood tree which are also its potential offspring.

Therefore, shedding cotton fluff containing seeds is a natural medium for the mother cottonwood tree to spread the seeds in different places.

And this way the seeds will not only drop at the bottom or around the female tree, rather will drop different places and grow as new cottonwood plants. 

To put it simply, the shedding of a female cottonwood tree is nothing but a very natural method of growing its family or letting its offspring come into life as new cottonwood plants.

And that’s the very reason why you see your nearby cottonwood trees shedding. 

How Do Cottonwood Trees Shed Cotton?

Cottonwood trees shed cotton fluff with the help of wind. 

Initially, cottonwood trees do not produce cotton to shed, fruiting capsules are produced first by the female trees that have an identical appearance as a strand of green pearls.

When these fruiting capsules are ripe, they produce cotton fluff which naturally is very lightweight. And at the same time, the capsules split up as well, thereby, the cotton fluff comes out of the capsules.

Then, when the wind blows, it makes the cotton fluff blow visibly and frequently in the air too for about two consecutive weeks. And that’s how cottonwood trees shed cotton. 

How To Get Rid Of Cottonwood Fluff?

The step-by-step procedure of getting rid of cottonwood fluff by using ethephon-based herbicide is described here, go through the steps and follow it.

Examine The Tree: 

Right after the cottonwood blooms are open and prior to cottonwood fruit set, observe the cottonwood tree to know whether the tree is in the mid to full blossoming stage or not.

And to comprehend this phase, carefully look for the signs such as bud swelling, bud bursting, and uncovered pistils, if you notice these signs, this means the cottonwood tree is in its mid to full blossom stage and you can spray ethephon-based herbicide on it. 

Mix The Ethephon-Based Herbicide With Water: 

In the next step, combine 10 gallons of water with 1 quart part of the concentrated fruit omitting chemical that contains 3.9% of ethephon which is an active ingredient for growth-inhibiting. Use a plastic-made stirring stick or utensil to mix it nicely. 

Remember to mix 10 gallons of water with  ¾ quart part of ethephon-based concentrated fruit omitting chemical if the weather shows 95°°F temperature. 

Pour The Mixture In A Sprayer: 

Since the cottonwood trees are 30-40 feet tall, take a backpack sprayer and fill it with the mixture. 

Spray The Top Of The Tree: 

After that start spraying the crown of the cottonwood tree first and cover the stems and cottonwood leaves with the ethephon-based mixture you made. However, spray the mixture as much as to wet the parts not to make the chemical running-off the blooms. 

This ethephon-based spray will make the shedding stop. And reapply the solution again, if needed. 

How To Stop Cottonwood Trees From Producing Cotton?

You surely can stop cottonwood trees from producing cotton by replacing the female cottonwood trees (female cottonwood trees are the ones that produce cotton fluff with seeds) with a male variety of cottonwood trees.

It’s because male cottonwood trees aren’t capable of producing seeds, therefore, there won’t be any cottonwood offspring too. 

Another way of stopping cottonwood trees from producing cotton is that to remove the entire female tree and it guaranteed will work.

You can either remove the mother three by injecting tree repellent into the girdle of the tree. Or, you can just cut it down and plant a male cottonwood tree. 

And if you don’t want to remove, nor want to plant a male cottonwood tree, you can inhibit the production of cotton fluff by using a growth regulator ethephon-based chemical. 

How To Get Rid Of Cottonwood Trees And Seedlings?

Generally, professional arborists tend to remove the larger-sized cottonwood trees, however, you still can get rid of medium to small-sized cottonwood trees and seedlings by following any of these interpreted tips below. 

Cutting The Tree Down: 

If the height of the cottonwood tree is below 6 feet, cutting down the tree safely by yourself is a good way of getting rid of that tree.

After that apply a herbicide on calcium layer of the left stump so that the herbicide treatment on the stump repels the root system of cottonwood trees and makes sure it doesn’t regrow again.

Using Herbicide: 

Using a treatment of 2-3% glyphosate herbicide such as Roundup is an effective and very good method of eliminating cottonwood seedlings.

First, clip the cottonwood seedlings’ tip and apply the herbicide solution with a brush or hand sprayer, and let the seedlings absorb the solution and translocate the solution to their roots. Once the seedlings are dried, clip them off the soil. 

Girdling Method: 

If you really want to get rid of a large cottonwood tree by yourself, attempt this girdling method.

In this method, around the cottonwood tree, peel off a 3-4 inches wide ring of bark. Then around the tree’s circumference, cut 2 cuts in the bark using a chainsaw and the cuts should be 4-8” apart.

After that use a hatchet to discard the ring of bark that is in between of the 2 cuts. And lastly, spray herbicide around the uncovered bark. 

This process will end the nutrient from flowing from tree roots to the leaves as well as stems, which will make the tree repel. 

Final Thoughts  

Cottonwood trees shed cotton fluff for two consecutive weeks in a year in late April/early May or June/July month, as the year a cottonwood tree sheds, the cotton fluff only lingers for about two weeks. However, if a cotton tree sheds in a year, it’s not likely to shed the next year again. 

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