How To Safety Get Rid Of Highly-Flammable Cottonwood Litter

9 June 2022

NEW BRIGHTON, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s a pretty-looking problem plaguing yards across the Twin Cities. And you must be careful about how you get rid of it.

Cottonwood trees are shedding and that has some yards looking like we’re in January instead of June.

“I don’t know if there’s a tree truly that’s not a nuisance, but this one can kind of get to you after two weeks,” said homeowner Amy Lee.

Frustrating fluff coats her yard and that of her neighbors. A gentle yet overwhelming reminder of the type of trees that tower above.

“I would guess that because of the lake there’s probably 75 cottonwoods in this circle,” she said.

The cottonwood seeds are in drift mode in Minnesota, piling up like snow on driveways, lawns and along roads.

“They’re highly flammable,” said Fire Marshal James Lange of the Fridley Fire Department.

He’s seen the damage firsthand when he said a homeowner tried to burn the cottonwood fluff as a means of removing it.

“And then [the fire] went across their lawn, jumped the fence, burned up their fence, went to their neighbor’s yard, their other neighbor’s yard. And then it burned up a deck, burned up a shed,” Lange said. “They thought it’s just gonna burn this little area, and it travels just like lightning, just very fast and very difficult to control once it gets into the woods.”

(credit: CBS)

Several years ago, YouTube videos of people lighting cottonwood on fire sparked a small spree of frees in Coon Rapids. The fire department there responded to half a dozen fires in a two-week span.

To safely get rid of the fluff, Fire Marshal Lange suggests using a rake or leaf blower.

“We have a sprinkler system, so every other day we get up and the cotton has kind of been melted down into our lawn, so that helps a little bit,” Lee said.

Water can also be helpful when it comes to your air conditioning units. When turned on, they suck up the cottonwood floating in the air. It can clog the unit, making it worker harder than it should.

To clean the cottonwood, HVAC companies suggest hosing it down with water. Just make sure to turn the unit off at the thermostat or by removing the power pin next to the unit outside.

Given the amount of cottonwood trees near her home, and the high temperature, Lee estimates she hoses her AC unit down every other night.

After washing the cottonwood out of your AC unit, turn it on to make sure it’s properly cooling your home. If not, you might need to call a professional to check it out.

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