What's dirty to one resident is loved by another

And I'm not talking about anything obscene.

My mention in this post of a question brought to me regarding the existence of cottonwood trees - and their attendant white fluff that blows around for a few weeks in the Spring - has elicited a few comments from other residents.

I thought I'd share with you the process I went through after getting a resident question and you can let me know what if anything you might have done differently or would do differently.

First, I did some research on my own and here are a couple of interesting things I learned:

From Planttalk:
Some municipalities have ordinances against female cottonwood trees, as the wind-blown cotton is deemed a nuisance. A few municipalities enact ordinances against male ("cotton less") cottonwoods, because the April pollen causes problems for allergy sufferers. Although cotton can be a nuisance, it has no allergenic properties. People with allergy symptoms during June cotton distribution are probably suffering from other wind-borne pollen - from grasses, weeds or other trees.
Albuquerque, New Mexico is one such city:


All Cottonwood/Poplars are restricted except for the following trees:
  • Populus fremonti var. Wizlizenzii - Rio Grande Cottonwood
  • Populus tremuloides - Quaking Aspen
  • Populus acuminata - Lanceleaf or Mountain Cottonwood
  • All trees must be labeled as high pollen/high allergen potential.
    Note: Male trees produce the pollen. Female trees produce the cotton.
Don't ask - I don't know enough! I was just researching to see if other cities have dealt with this issue and how have they dealt with it.

On the other end of the spectrum, a Columbus, Ohio resident who maintains a site called Bob's Brain on Botany, has a section devoted to "dirty trees" and expresses a preference that favors different aspects from the resident who contacted me:
"Dirty trees" is a derisive term used sometimes to describe trees that become a nuisance because they drop  stuff onto the ground. Not just leaves, but all kinds of things --young and mature fruits, flowers, bark, and even bud scales --can get trees into trouble! But like people, the ones that aren't the always the neatest turn out to be most interesting! The tree debris that comes to rest on our lawns, streets, and parking lots can be like the pages of a botany book.

"Dirty trees" might be a nuisance at times, but that's a small price to pay for the fascinating glimpse they provide into the world of plant adaptations. Carbon sequestration is good too!
You can see lovely photos taken throughout Ohio of a variety of "dirty trees" here.

So, quickly, a minimum of two sides of the same issue emerged: local ordinances have been enacted that give voice to residents' dislike of the dirty tree droppings.  But likewise, reasons to consider living with it also exist and come from individuals experienced in botany.

What to do, what to do.

Of course my research was far far far from exhaustive, but it was adequate for understanding the basics of the issue (so-called dirty trees).  After communicating back with the resident who originally contacted me about the issue, I then asked the law director about whether this topic had ever come up before and what if anything had transpired as a result. This issue of the fluff, I was told, has not come up before.  The resident made it clear to me that there was a recognition of the cost of suggesting all cottonwoods be removed and replaced, but the resident wanted a level of recognition of the sentiments about the floating fluff.  We agreed that given the current economic climate, action on this issue beyond the exchange of information such as we'd done was probably the extent of action at this time.

In other words - I was asked a question, I looked into it, I checked it out to see if the city had ever dealt with it before, I was in communication with the resident after those steps and we concluded that that was that, certainly for now.  My personal opinion about the action being suggested - removal and replacement of the trees - was never discussed because I didn't feel it was necessarily relevant.  My interest was to determine what we were dealing with, had other communities near or far dealt with it before and had the city ever handled it before.  The resident was satisfied with these steps and responses and stopped there.

What do you think?  Good model? Would you expect more, less - how would you have handled such a question, if you were one of seven city council members being paid by every resident's tax dollars?

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