Choosing trees for hurricane resistance

Bennett Joffrion  |  1/14/2007 9:29:40 AM

Trees and shrubs can provide a valuable buffer that can reduce storm damage. Foliage density and topography can modify wind speed and direction; however, high winds and storms can cause damage to trees. Studies of trees following hurricanes offer the ability to place trees in one of two categories -- “Survivor Trees” or “Victim Trees."

Survivor Tree – a compact tree that has a major tap root and well-developed secondary roots. It also has a well-tapered trunk, and its center of gravity is low. Survivor trees that are healthy, young-to-middle-aged and well-maintained survive storms well.

Victim Tree – a shallow-rooted tree with a high center of gravity that is weighed down by a dense canopy. Victim trees are generally fast-growing and weak-wooded. In storms they usually either snap or uproot.

Characteristics of Wind-Resistant Trees

  • Native Species
  • Slow-Growing
  • Hard Woods
  • Low Center of Gravity
  • Deep Penetrating Radial Roots
  • Open Branching Character
  • Heavy, Stout Leaders, Flexible Limbs and Short Leaf Branching
  • Small, Fine-Textured Leaf
  • Deciduous Leaves

“Survivor” Trees

LSU Landscape Professor D.G. “Buck” Abbey's Top 10 Hurricane-Resistant Trees

  • Bald Cypress
  • Live Oak
  • Sabal Palm
  • Windmill Palm
  • Mexican Fan Palm
  • Black Gum
  • Cow Oak
  • Iron Wood
  • Shumard Oak
  • Winged Elm

Other Good Wind-Resistant Tree Species:

  • American Elm
  • American Holly
  • American Hop Hornbean
  • Black Locust
  • Catalpa
  • Cherrybark Oak
  • Cherry Laurel
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Dahoon Holly
  • Green Ash
  • Hackberry
  • Nuttall Oak
  • Osage Orange
  • Pond Cypress
  • River Birch
  • Savannah Holly
  • Southern Magnolia
  • Sycamore
  • Sweet Bay Magnolia
  • Sweet Gum
  • Tulip Tree
  • Willow Oak

“Victim” or Weak-Wood Trees

  • Pecans
  • Pines
  • Some Red Oaks
  • Red Cedars
  • Ornamental Pears
  • Willows
  • Silver Maples
  • Box Edlers
  • Cottonwoods
  • Hickories
  • Some Elms

Mature water oaks were severely damaged along Hurricane Andrew's path. These trees have short, shallow roots. It is a classic example of fast-growing, weak-wooded trees that have a shallow root system growing in heavy clay soil and were either uprooted or had stems snapped.

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