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Landscaping For Hurricane Protection - Part 3

By Sammy of Stone Marmot

March 14, 2011

Since I wrote the first the first two articles of this series (Article 1, Article 2), I've come across another good resource for the wind resistance of trees. This one has its information available for free download.

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Services (UF/IFAS) has conducted a number of studies on the effects of hurricanes on trees in Florida. Its site, http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/treesandhurricanes/, has a number of articles which discuss the results of these studies.

One of the better of these reports is Publication No. FOR 119, “Selecting Southeastern Coastal Plain Tree Species For Wind Resistance,” by Mary Duryea and Eliana Kampf. It was originally published in September, 2007. It is only 13 pages long, but full of data on tree survival rates for the various hurricanes studied. The data is well summarized with a list of recommended trees at the end of the report. It also has a list of recommendations for selecting and maintaining trees for the best wind resistance. Most all the trees in this report are native to Florida.

Publication No. FOR 220, “Selecting Tropical And Subtropical Tree Species For Wind Resistance,” also by Mary Duryea and Eliana Kampf, is very similar FOR 119 above, except it covers both native and the most popular non-native trees used in Florida. It is also only 13 pages long, but full of data on tree survival rates for the various hurricanes studied. The data is again well summarized with a list of recommended trees at the end of the report.

So far, I haven't found any good references on the wind resistance of shrubs, other than the book discussed in the second article of this series.

One conclusion from these reports is that native trees tend to do much better in hurricanes than non-natives. Also, trees tend to handle wind better if they are planted in clusters and especially in layers, with shrubs, low trees, and tall trees intermixed. Mixed species tend to do better than monocultures.

For those of us familiar with permaculture, these conclusions tend to confirm and reinforce our permaculture practices of dense plantings of many different types of plants in many layers. Unfortunately, fruit trees tended not to do as well in high winds. There is also little data on how perennial vegetable plants handle winds. So, my take from this is that for an optimally sustainable yard here in Florida and other hurricane prone areas, you really need a mix of both wind resistant natives and of food producing plants.

Too often, those of us trying to practice permaculture tend to think of nothing but food producing plants, with a food forest being the ultimate goal. But this food forest is worthless and not too sustainable if it, and the home it surrounds, is severely damaged or even destroyed by the first severe storm that comes along. True permaculture encourages local self-sufficiency. Being dependent upon insurance companies and government disaster relief programs for recovery from storms doesn't seem to fit this permaculture principle too well. A truly sustainable property needs to consider all likely events, not just the trendy and fashionable things like high food prices and peak oil.

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