Tree Species Influences Resilience in High Winds

September 15, 2016

Southern Tree

Downed trees are common headlines after major storms, giving the misimpression that trees fail in severe weather events. This is generally not true. Whether or not a tree will fail in a severe weather event depends on several factors, mainly its health and its species.

Beyond taking the proper and timely steps to care for the trees around your home, be sure to select species that are naturally resilient to the conditions it could face on your property. When selecting a tree species, consider the following:

  • Is it native to the area? Tree species that are naturally found in hurricane-prone areas have likely evolved to better survive them.
  • Does it shed its leaves in wind? Because a much greater amount of energy is required to regrow wood than to grow foliage, shedding leaves can be used as a survival strategy: the tree sacrifices leaves to save its stems and branches.
  • How flexible is the wood? Hurricane-force winds will likely cause a tree to either bend or break – whichever comes first. If the tree is capable of bending, the further it can go without breaking, the better. Some species are naturally flexible while others are not, and this factor is also influenced by a tree's age (and, by extension, its thickness).
  • Does it have a deep root system? The deeper a tree's roots, the more securely it can anchor itself into the ground.

According to research conducted by the University of Florida, the species found to best withstand hurricane force winds is the sand live oak. Other live oaks, hollies, crape myrtles, palms, cypresses and southern magnolias were also found to be particularly resilient. Conversely, southern red cedars, spruce pines, sand pines and southern red oaks were found to have low survivability rates.

If you have concerns about the condition or resiliency of any trees on your property, contact a certified arborist. PURE members who would like assistance utilizing PURE's complimentary arborist services or connecting with a local professional can contact a Member Advocate® at memberadvocate@pureinsurance.com or 888.813.7873 (PURE).