Plant trees with hurricanes in mind


Trees planted in groups with other trees and shrubs withstand hurricane winds better than those standing alone.

Submitted photo
Published: Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 12:11 PM.

The 2013 hurricane season has officially begun, with forecasters calling for an active year in the Atlantic Ocean . Fear that trees will topple onto homes and structures leads many coastal residents to remove trees from their yards, which also removes the many benefits trees bring to our communities. These include habitat for birds and wildlife, cleaner air, energy savings due to shading, higher property values, and beauty. Having a tree free yard is not necessary to protect your property. How well a tree may survive a hurricane depends on several factors, many of which are under your control. These include tree species planted, planting design, and tree spacing.

Wind-resistant trees

Some tree species are better able to withstand strong winds than others. Wind resistance is especially important when planting or deciding to keep large maturing trees, since they have the potential to cause the most damage. Studies of trees surviving hurricanes in Florida and the gulf coast found live oak, southern magnolia, and bald cypress to be the most wind resistant large trees. Other large maturing trees that have proved moderately to highly wind resistant are hickory, persimmon, shumard oak, river birch, and black gum, also known as tupelo. All of these species thrive along the Carolina coast as well.

In the studies, several species of smaller trees, maturing less than 30-feet tall, were found to withstand hurricane winds with little injury. The least damaged were dogwood, American holly, yaupon, crape myrtle, and sabal palms. Others that performed nearly as well were Japanese maple, ironwood, sweet bay magnolia, redbud and fringe tree. These are all great species for our area and should be top choices when selecting trees to grow near homes and businesses.

Fall is the best time to plant trees in the south, and many yards in our area would greatly benefit from more trees. When selecting trees for your fall planting projects, stay away from species that have demonstrated poor survival in hurricanes, especially when planting close to homes and structures. Weak wooded, wind-damage prone trees commonly found in local landscapes include pecan, Bradford pear, Leyland cypress, lacebark elm, red and silver maple, green ash, pines, laurel and water oak and tulip poplar.

Plant in groups

How trees are planted can also affect their hurricane performance. Trees planted in groups, rather than as single specimens, are more likely to come through a hurricane intact and standing. A group of trees should include five or more trees growing together, each planted within 10 feet of another tree but not in a straight line. When planting new trees, consider planting them as a grove, with several different types of trees grouped together. If you have existing single trees, plant additional trees and shrubs close by and mulch the entire area to create a landscape bed. This will result in a more attractive, easier to maintain and, potentially, more wind-resistant landscape.

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