Hurricane Resistant Trees

Winds are fascinating and powerful forces of nature. It can sometimes seem unbelievable that something we cannot see or grasp would be so powerful that it could blow over a huge tree. Hurricanes are known for their mighty winds that can cause significant damage. Trees that can withstand these winds need specific characteristics.

Hurricane resistant trees have deep, extensive root systems, tend to be shorter, and have low centers of gravity. Certain species of hornbeam, dogwood, holly, oak, cypress, palm, magnolia, and other miscellaneous trees fall into this category. No tree is entirely hurricane proof.

A category one hurricane has wind with speeds ranging between 74 mph to 94 mph. The highest level in the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a category five hurricane. It has winds with a speed of more than 157 mph. As you can imagine, winds that blow at these speeds are incredibly strong and cause devastating destruction. Trees are not immune to this destruction, but there are some that manage better than others.

What Makes A Tree Hurricane Resistant?

It must be remembered that no tree can be classed as entirely hurricane resistant as the excessive air force in a hurricane could push over almost any tree if the winds are powerful enough. There are, however, some trees that cope better with hurricane winds and are less likely to be uprooted.

When a tree is uprooted and overthrown by wind, the phenomenon is known as windthrow. It is essential to limit windthrow as it is damaging, dangerous, and even fatal in some cases. Several factors make trees less prone to windthrow.

  1. Taller trees are more prone to toppling in high winds. Shorter trees are more resistant to strong winds.
  2. Trees with shallow root systems or trees planted too close to buildings with limited root development will also be at risk of falling. A deep, extensive root system makes a tree better able to withstand hurricane winds.

Some trees entangle their roots with other plants in the area, which helps provide a solid base that is harder to overthrow. Oak trees are a good example of trees that anchor themselves in the roots of other plants.

  • Trees with a high center of gravity will fall more easily than those with a low center of gravity. The tree’s center of gravity is affected by:
    • Where the branches attach to the trunk
    • If the trunk is upright or grows at an angle
    • Where the foliage is positioned on the tree
  • Trees that grow quickly and have a short life span tend to have shallower roots and, as they age, develop cracks and fissures that can make the tree more unstable. Slow-growing long-living trees are generally better at withstanding winds.
  • The soil can also affect the stability of a tree as it impacts root development. Trees grown in clay soils often have limited root systems, resulting in a more unstable tree. Shallow, sandy soils are not good anchoring soils and can allow a tree to fall more easily.
  • Trees grown in groups of five or more are better able to stand against gale-force winds. Similarly, undergrowth foliage can also make the tree more wind resistant.

Trees That Are Hurricane Resistant

1. American Hornbeam Tree

American Hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana.
Daderot American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana).

The American hornbeam tree (Carpinus caroliniana) is an elegant tree with smooth fluted bark that grows 25 – 40 feet tall. The American hornbeam grows best in full sun and moist friable soil. It is also known as the musclewood or blue beech tree.

Hop hornbeam trees are good as understory trees with a deep root system. They have intense autumn colors and are sometimes known as ironwood trees.

2. Flowering Dogwood Trees

Pink and white dogwoods in bloom in Kentucky
Yay Pink and white dogwoods in bloom in Kentucky

Dogwood (Cornus florida) are popular because of their beautiful spring blooms and burnt orange or red fall leaves. There are various dogwood trees that can be used, each with different flower colors. They grow up to 20 feet tall.

3. Holly Trees

Holly Tree
Smabs Sputzer Holly Tree

There are a number of different holly tree species that are hurricane resistant. Holly trees are popular for their bright-colored berries and dark foliage, which creates an attractive garden and provides food for birds.

  1. Dahoon holly (Ilex cassine)
  2. Inkberry (Ilex glabra)
  3. American holly (Ilex opaca)
  4. Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria)

Are Oak Trees Hurricane Resistant?

Sandy Point Texas Live Oak
Djmaschek | wikimedia Sandy Point Texas Live Oak

Gardeners like oak trees for their dense shade and magnificent fall colors. Oaks are the epitome of strength and resilience, and most people would assume they would all be hurricane resistant. Certain species of oak trees are classed as having high wind resistance.

  1. Sand live oak (Quercus geminta)
  2. Turkey oak (Quercus laevis)
  3. Myrtle oak (Quercus myrtiflora)
  4. Live oak (Quercus virginiana)

These oaks have a robust root system, making them able to stand in the face of violent winds. There are other oaks that should be avoided, though, as they are easily windthrown. These include water oak, southern red oak, and laurel oak.

Does A Southern Magnolia Have Good Wind Resistance?

The southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is classed as a tree that can withstand extreme winds. It has broad, lush, evergreen leaves and extravagant waxy flowers that provide a beautiful summer show.

Jane Magnolia
Paul Cooper Jane Magnolia

They usually reach heights of 20 to 50 feet, and there are several different cultivars. One of the best cultivars for wind is Bracken’s Brown Beauty, a hardy tree that can withstand cold better than some of the other cultivars.

Are There Any Hurricane Resistant Conifers?

The University of Florida recommends two cypress trees for regions where hurricanes commonly occur. These are the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and the pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens). They are deciduous conifers with, particularly striking fall colors, and other benefits.

What Palm Trees Are Hurricane Resistant?

Most of us have seen films of wind-tossed palm trees, and the fact that they grow on beaches suggests they should be wind resistant. There are two palms that cope well when planted in hurricane belts.

  1. Sabal or cabbage palms (Sabal palmetto)
  2. Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis)
how to prune a phoenix canariensis canary island date palm tree

What Are Some Other Hurricane Resistant Trees?

The University of Florida lists some other trees in the high wind resistance category. These include:

  1. Florida scrub hickory (Carya floridana)
  2. Podocarpus (Podocarpus spp.)
  3. Sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum)

Conclusion

No tree is completely hurricane proof, but several are more resistant to the powerful winds that occur with hurricanes than others. These include some oaks, certain conifers, holly, dogwood, and southern magnolia. Trees should be planted in groups to maximize wind resistance.