Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tall trees that resist wind and ice damage

23 tall-growing native trees that resist wind and ice damage

Updated, 3/6/10.

All of these trees can reach 75-100 feet in height or more when mature. All are native trees of North America with moderate to good resistance to damage by wind and ice.

Trees marked with an asterisk below should be considered moderately resistant. A general rule to remember is that strong evergreens are not as resistant to wind and ice damage as strong deciduous trees. Because of their foliage, they tend to catch more winter wind, snow, and ice. (That's why evergreen trees are often planted in windbreaks.)

1. Acer nigrum -- Black maple
2. Acer saccharum -- Sugar maple*
3. Carya cordiformis -- Bitternut hickory
4. Carya glabra -- Pignut hickory
5. Carya illinoensis -- Pecan
6. Carya ovata -- Shagbark hickory
7. Carya tomentosa -- Mockernut hickory
8. Fagus grandifolia -- American beech
9. Gymnocladus dioicus -- Kentucky coffeetree
10. Juglans nigra -- Eastern black walnut
11. Liquidambar styraciflua -- American Sweetgum
12. Magnolia acuminata -- Cucumbertree magnolia
13. Picea pungens -- Colorado spruce
14. Pinus ponderosa -- Ponderosa pine*
15. Pinus resinosa -- Red pine*
16. Platanus occidentalis -- Sycamore, American planetree*
17. Quercus alba -- White oak
18. Quercus bicolor -- Swamp white oak
19. Quercus borealis -- Northern red oak
20. Quercus macrocarpa -- Bur oak*
21. Quercus velutina -- Black oak
22. Taxodium distichum -- Common baldcypress
23. Tsuga canadensis -- Canada hemlock*

Remember -- if the weather is bad enough, any tree can lose branches, snap its trunk, or even lose its grip and fall over. You should use good judgment about keeping your home safe. It's not wise to have big trees next to your house, no matter what kind of trees they are. 

For a (usually) safe distance between house and tree, allow half of the mature tree's spread (half of the diameter of its crown). If the mature tree will have a spread of 70 feet, it should be planted at least 35 feet from any buildings. This does mean that many suburban properties are too small for large trees.

If you want a guarantee that you will never have to cope with fallen branches or storm-damaged trees, simply remove all trees from your property. That should eliminate the problem.

Sources for the above list include:

Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: A Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers by Gary L. Hightshoe, published in 1988 by Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York.

Ice Storm Damage to Urban Trees, an article in the appendix of Storms Over the Urban Forest, a publication of the USDA Forest Service. (This article's table, "Ice storm susceptibility of tree species commonly planted in urban areas" is reprinted in many reputable articles about ice damage susceptibility on the internet.)

Trees For Nebraska Ice Storm Recovery and Susceptibility of Trees to Ice Storm Damage in the Great Plains, published by the Nebraska Statewide Arboreum

2 comments -- please add yours:

Oak Leaf said...

I have an eastern Black Walnut in my backyard growing among other trees such as American Elm, Buckeye, Silver Maple and Cottonwood. The entire grove is at least 100 years old with a canopy that begins 50 feet off the ground. The black Walnut is very slim and tall with it crown poking up high above the canopy. I live in the Southwestern Minnesota.

J Milton said...

Great article! Very thorough. You may be interested in the ITFD (International Tree Failure Database). It is a relatively new research tool of which the data for tree failures is supplied by trained volunteers. The data is collated and then made available to users, so that predictions of tree failure can be made.
Eventually enough data will be available so that we can statistically and reliably see what species are failing and which are not. Exciting!

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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