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Tips and Tricks

Tips and Tricks

Can Your Trees Withstand Tropical Storm Winds?

Have you ever been in a tropical storm? If you live in Florida, the answer is definitely yes. You don’t have to live here for long before  you see what tropical storms and hurricanes do to trees. Broken branches litter the ground. Uprooted trees take down power lines. Leaves and debris cover every possible surface.

In spite of the destruction that can happen during storms, trees are amazing creations. They offer welcome shade from the hot sun. They’re critical oxygen producers (one acre can keep 18 people alive for a year!), and they create a soothing ambiance in cities and rural areas alike.

Even in adverse weather, trees act as buffers to nearby homes and businesses. That makes them valuable to have around-if you know how to treat them well.

Engineered by Mother Nature

Healthy trees are well-engineered to withstand even severe conditions, particularly if the trees match the landscape and local climate.

Even after the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, toppled trees made up a low percentage compared to trees left standing. Additionally, most of the trees that suffered damage had diseased trunks, roots, and/or branches. In some cases, the branches were unwieldy and untrimmed as well.

As scientists study wind capacity from tropical storms and hurricanes, they discover that most native trees fare better than newly transplanted or non-native species.

In other words, some trees are simply more resilient than others.

Resilient Trees

Trees that withstand violent storms adapt to wind forces over time. They may be native to the area (as in the cases of slash pine and long leaf pine) and show signs of being well tended.

Here are several trees that tend to weather storms well:

  • Slash pine

  • Pignut hickory

  • Southern magnolia

  • Live oak

  • Bald cypress

  • Pygmy date palm

  • Sabal palm

  • Canary Island date palm

  • Ironwood

What do resilient trees have in common? The most important factors are plenty of room for roots to spread, a balanced crown-to-root ratio, and proper tree care. The latter refers to appropriate pruning, pest treatment, and other strategies that promote healthy growth.

Weak Trees

When homeowners choose trees for their yards, it’s easy to ignore the tree’s innate strengths. Instead, most people choose trees that will look great with the rest of their landscaping. If you do your research, though, you won’t have a hard time finding out which trees don’t weather storms well.

Avoid planting these trees close to homes or businesses:

  • Australian pine

  • Sand pine

  • White pine

  • Ear trees

  • Eucalyptus

  • Jacaranda

  • Bradford pear

  • Pecan

  • Weeping fig

  • Silver or red maples

  • Water oak

  • Box elder

If you like elm trees, be sure to plant them well away from the house. They work nicely lining streets if they’re not near power lines. In general, most of the trees listed above have a weak branch structure and wood strength. Even a minor storm can cause them to falter or splinter.

Things get worse if these trees are close to buildings and vehicles, or if they’re beginning to decay. Do you see mushrooms or other fungus growing on the tree? These are signs of dead wood. With dead or dying trees, it’s not a matter of if the tree falls, it’s only when.

Prepare Before the Storm

If you own lots of problem trees, it’s extra important for you to stay in contact with your local arborist. You can either be proactive before storm season hits-or you can wait until your yard is littered with branches.

Some trees have hidden problems while looking strong on the surface. If your arborist recommends removing several of the worst offenders, even if they look beautiful, it’s best to follow his or her advice. Think of the possible consequences: your yard could remain untouched in a storm, or it could become a disaster zone. Take action ahead of time.

Meanwhile, follow these additional tips to keep your yard safe:

  1. Look out for trees with hollow cavities in the trunk. If the whole tree is hollow, get it removed as soon as possible.

  2. Watch for tree wounds and scars. If the tree has patchy bark, it may have been hit by lightning or scarred by disease. Ask your arborist.

  3. Scan for dead branches, especially in the crown of the tree. Those dead branches may indicate that your tree is dying.

  4. Proactively plant trees where their roots can spread. You don’t want roots to run against barriers made by your foundation or fence.

  5. Ask your arborist to prune branches and flush out weak areas. Make a pruning appointment early (before storm season arrives).

  6. Get your trees inspected regularly, even if they look fine to you. Certified arborists can spot the problems you might miss.

On the positive side, remember that most trees stay firm during storms (unless they’re not strong genetically or are simply wrong for the climate and topography). Just because you have an old tree in your yard doesn’t mean it will fall during the next 25-mph windstorm. Still, being proactive about verifying your trees’ health will give you peace of mind in the next storm.

Contact your arborist. Then, when the wild winds come and the rain pours down, you’ll rest assured that your trees are prepared for the onslaught.