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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

Nuisance Tree Fruit Removal

Posted by John Fulton -

Nuisance Tree Fruit Removal

Nuisance fruit removal is a term used for removing sweet gum balls, maple seeds, and crabapples. It really applies to fruit that is a nuisance.

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.

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.

There are also injection products available (mainly through commercial applicators), but the cost is considerably more. The other side of the coin with some of the injection products is that they may not remove as much of the nuisance fruit. In the end, weigh your options and decide what may work best for you.

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