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John Fulton


John Fulton
Former County Extension Director



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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Sweet Gum Ball and Other Nuisance Fruit Prevention

Posted by John Fulton -

One of the main things to discuss today is the removal of nuisance fruit. You may be thinking about those apples or peaches, but really the nuisance fruit category includes things that are much more a nuisance like sweet gum balls, maple seeds, and crabapples.

There are several products available to eliminate nuisance fruit. The most common is ethephon, and it is used as a foliar spray to reduce or eliminate undesirable fruit or seeds. Some of the trade names include Florel and Ethrel. The product is effective at eliminating much of the fruit without affecting leaf growth and color, and it does not harm other plants that get some spray drift on them. It also does not affect the actual flowering of the treated trees.

With ethephon, the key is in the timing. The application must be made during flowering, but before the fruit set in. For most flowering trees there is a 10-14 day window of opportunity. Sweet gums are a little tricky since there are no showy flowers involved, so effective sprays should occur just as new leaves begin to emerge. Sprays should leave leaves wet, but not to the point of dripping. Good coverage of the tree is needed, so keep in mind the size of the tree when you are weighing this option. There are injectable products available, but must be applied by a professional. The injectable products have not been as effective as the sprays.

This product is a growth regulator that naturally occurs. Its natural production is stimulated by stress, so make sure you aren't treating a tree that is under stress from drought, high temperatures, diseases, or other environmental stresses. Treating stressed trees can cause severe injury to the plant such as leaf loss or scorching.



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