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 trees are compact trees that have major tap roots and well-developed secondary roots. They also have well-tapered trunks, and the trees possess a low center of gravity. Survivor trees that are healthy, young-to-middle-aged and well-maintained survive storms well.
Victim Trees are shallow-rooted trees with high centers of gravity that is weighed down by dense canopies. Victim trees are generally fast-growing and weak-wooded. In storms they usually either snap or uproot.
Characteristics of wind-resistant trees include: native species, slow-growing, hard woods, low center of gravity, deep penetrating radial roots, open branching, heavy, stout leaders; flexible limbs and short leaf branching, small, fine-textured leaf; and deciduous leaves
Survivor tree species include: Bald cypress, Live oak, Sabal palm, Windmill palm, Mexican fan palm, Black gum, Cow oak, Shumard oak
Winged elm, 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 and Willow oak
Victim or weak-wood tree species include: Pecan, Pine, Some red oak, Red cedar, Ornamental pear, Willows, Silver maple, Cottonwood, Hickory and 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.
For more horticultural information, contact Chris Robichaux, Ph.D, county agent, St. Martin/Iberia parishes, at 332-2181 or 369-4440.