Wind Tolerance for Trees in the Palm Beach Landscape

By Pamela Crawford

Sometimes there is nothing you can do. If you get a direct hit from a cat 5 hurricane, it doesn’t matter what you plant because no plant can stand up to 160 mph winds. But remember that 90% of hurricanes are cat 3 and below, and many trees will survive those winds, particularly if you are away from the eye. ‘Wind Tolerance for Trees in the Palm Beach Landscape’ can inform you about the most dangerous trees BEFORE they fall on your house!

It’s time for intelligent planting. Know the wind tolerance of every tree you buy for the Palm Beach landscape.  And stick to wind-tolerant trees for the areas that could fall on your house.

After the four Florida hurricanes of 2004, I realized that, for first time, we had a lot of available data on wind tolerance of trees for the Palm Beach landscape. Had I been able to hire about a thousand scientists, I would have had them traveling around Florida counting trees and using scientific methods to give us definitive information on every plant species that grows inside our borders. However, since I just had Barbara Hadsell and myself to do the research, we contacted experts and homeowners alike to gather any and all information we could find to share with you.

We had a great response to our enquires, particularly from county extension agents in the areas that were hurt the worst by the 2004 storms.

Most of this information is not scientific but anecdotal, meaning information that is passed from person to person mostly by word of mouth or email. And I did not start out with a list of great plants to write about:  rather, I accepted what I had observed, could read, or heard about from other people. Although it’s not perfect, it’s a start. I look forward to this information evolving through the years as more people share information with me about their observations of a plants’ wind tolerance.

I included this information in a book I wrote in 2004 titled “Stormscaping.” After the 2005 hurricanes, I contacted my sources again for any updates to my information. It largely stayed the same.

Fifteen other factors  – other than a tree’s wind tolerance -  cause trees to fall (see the ‘Stormscaping’ book for details). These factors, such as wet soil, make it even more difficult to judge anecdotal evidence. For example, I had a call from a lady in Lake Worth (80 mph winds) who told me her live oak tree had fallen. Since the live oak is one of our strongest trees, it is quite unusual for one to fall in such low winds. After investigating further, I discovered that her tree was planted within a few feet of her driveway. Since the roots of the tree resisted growing under concrete, her tree had lost the stability on that side and fell over. Another friend sent me photos of her live oak down in Loxahatchee (80 mph winds). It had fallen apart, which again is very unusual for that type of tree in those winds. After investigating further, I found out it was a water oak, which is one of the least wind-tolerant trees in Florida! So, you quickly learn that judging a tree’s wind tolerance can be quite tricky. And there are bound to be errors. But, I feel strongly that some information is much better than none at all for the Palm Beach landscape.

I attempted to put accurate wind speeds with each source. First, I went to the National Hurricane Center and looked at their data. It didn’t seem quite right. For example, they estimated the wind at my house at 50 mph, but I had hundreds of trees down. Most of the houses on my street had severe roof damage, which didn’t seem possible for 50 mph winds. So I questioned many other experts and individuals with devices that measure wind. When in doubt, I underestimated the wind speed for safety’s sake. I would rather tell someone that a tree went down in 80 mph winds and find out later that the winds were 95 mph rather than have it the other way around.

There are some tree surveys that I referenced that I should mention. Dr. Mary Duryea ( Assistant Dean for Research and Assistant Director, IFAS, University of Florida) conducts surveys after all the hurricanes that have hit Florida; she has done that since the mid-80’s, including Opal, Erin, and Andrew. This data is valuable because she was able to actually count trees and use scientific methods to determine how they did. Currently, she is analyzing her data from the four storms of 2004, which I look forward to reading upon its completion.

Dr. Duryea has summarized some interesting facts in her surveys. She found that native trees fared better than exotics in south Florida after Hurricane Andrew: “Native tree species…were the best survivors in the wind…34% of the exotic trees were still standing after the hurricane (Andrew) while 66% of native trees were standing.”(13) She also has interesting information about how trees fared in the same storm: “In general, fruit trees were severely damaged. Black olive, gumbo limbo, and live oak that were pruned survived better than unpruned trees. Only 18% of all the trees that fell caused property damage.”(13)

I don’t know if native trees did better in central and north Florida, since they had such extensive damage from two native trees, laurel oaks and water oaks.

Brevard County also conducted a tree survey after Frances and Jeanne, which includes good information.

I am not repeating the wind tolerance of all the plants featured in my other books – simply giving new information.

Remember that hurricanes are notoriously unpredictable. Tornadoes and higher wind currents are often reported within these storms, which causes trees to fall when theoretically, they should remain standing. Regardless of how thoroughly we study these storms, there are always surprises. And since so much of this data is anecdotal, that leaves considerable room for error. So use this information as guidelines to help you make intelligent choices.

The numbers with each source correspond to more source information in the “Sources and Bibliography at the end of the ‘Stormscaping’ book.

I have classified wind tolerance as follows for trees in the Palm Beach landscape:

Very high wind tolerance:  Plants that hold together fairly well in cat 1 to cat 4 hurricanes; some of the plants in this category, like the pygmy date palm, do fairly well in cat 5 storms as well. I put very few plants in this class of very high wind tolerance, probably underestimating the strength of some plants in dealing with these high winds. I felt it best to err on the side of caution with a study as anecdotal as this one.

High wind tolerance:  Trees that hold together pretty well in hurricanes from cat 1 to cat 3 hurricanes. They may not die in stronger hurricanes, but will be pretty torn up in the Palm Beach landscape.

Medium wind tolderance:  Trees that hold together fairly well in cat 1 and cat 2 storms. They may not die in stronger hurricanes, but will be pretty torn up in the Palm Beach landscape.

Low wind tolerance: Trees that routinely show damage in cat 1 storms. They may not die in stronger hurricanes, but will be pretty torn up. Not all of them show damage, but a significant percentage does show the consequences of the wind in the Palm Beach landscape.

Acacia, Ear Leaf (Acacia auriculiformis): Zones 10 to 11. This tree is an invasive, exotic tree (meaning that it crowds out our native forests). No one is currently planting it, but a lot of them exist in the landscape, particularly because it reproduces like crazy. It is very brittle, with limbs falling from winds of only about 30 mph in the Palm Beach landscape. If you have any, consider removing them. Low wind tolerance.

Acacia, Sweet (Acacia farnesiana)  Zones 8b to 11. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had three reports on this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne; two of them were ‘good’ and one of them was ‘ok’. However, they did conclude that the tree did well considering. The winds in this county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). Medium wind tolerance is a guestimate for this tree because I don’t have enough data to make an accurate judgment. Since it is a native with an open canopy, it could possess high wind tolerance. More data is needed to know for sure.

African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata) Zones 9b to 11. This tree is brittle, and not recommended for planting within falling distance of buildings. I have one that I planted in the middle of a clump of slash pines. It made it well through Frances and Jeanne, probably because it was protected by the pines. I’m not sure of the winds, but they were at least 80 mph. Had the tree been by itself or had the winds been much stronger, it probably would have fallen or broken up. See “Best Garden Color for Florida” for more information about this tree. Because of its brittleness, this tree has a low wind tolerance.

Avocado (Persea americana): Zones 10 to 11. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), 46% were left standing (15). This is a brittle tree, but many more were left standing after the less intense hurricanes, Frances and Jeanne; even though they broke up a lot in these cat 2 and 3 storms, they  generally recovered. I wouldn’t plant one too near the house, though.  Because of its brittleness, avocados have a low wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Bischofia (Bischofia javanica) Zones 9b to 11. This tree is brittle, invasive, messy, and provides shade so dense that not much grows underneath  its foliage. These trees were badly damaged in Ft. Myers during hurricane Charley with winds of only 90 mph. If you have one of these, get rid of it before it gets rid of you! This tree has a low wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Black Olive (Bucida buceras): Zones 10 to 11. Black Olive (Bucida buceras): Zones 10 to 11. This tree broke up badly in even 80 mph winds in the Palm Beach landscape. Black olives are commonly planted throughout the Palm Beach landscape. The leaves stain whatever they land on. The shade they cast is so dense that not much grows underneath. They drop leaves constantly. And they break apart in storms with winds as low as 60 mph. What’s not to like? According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph),  68% of the black olives were left standing. Uprooting was the most common type of failure in these cat 5 winds. Black olives were one of the five species that did the most property damage in Andrew (15). They have a low wind tolerance because even though it takes a lot of wind to blow them over, they show substantial crown damage in cat 1 storms.

Blolly (Guapira discolor): Zones 9b to 11. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had three ‘good’ and two ‘ok’ reports on this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. The general consensus of the group was that it did well in the Palm Beach landscape. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). I would love to have more data about how more of these trees did in more wind. This one is impossible to classify because of so little data.

Bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.) Zones 9 to 11. According to Pam Brown of the Pinellas County Extension (near Tampa), she saw some bottlebrush blown out of the ground, completely or partially, even though that area only experienced cat 1 winds (3). Tom MacCubbin reports that they suffered minimal damage in Orlando with the three hurricanes it experienced in 2004 (31). The winds in Orlando probably also didn’t exceed cat 1 force. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), 52% were left standing (15). This tree has a medium wind tolerance.

Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus): Zones 10b to 11.  I didn’t get many reports on this tree’s performance, but it has a history of high wind tolerance. It has a green and a silver cultivar. I saw a number of small silver buttonwoods on the ground, but I think that was because they were newly planted. I would like to hear more; if anyone knows more about this tree’s performance, email me at pamela@pamela-crawford.com. For more information about this plant, see “Easy Gardens for Florida.”

Carrotwood (Cupaniopsis anacardio): Carrotwood is an invasive exotic tree, meaning that it is crowding out native plants in our Palm Beach forests. It is a pain in the neck because it drops messy seeds that sprout, creating a little invasive forest in your front yard! I didn’t hear many reports of trees down, however, and because of this lack of information, I cannot classify this plant.

Cedar, Southern Red (Juniperus silicicola):  Dr. Mary Duryea reported significant crown damage in Erin (85 mph winds), but only 8% fell. Forty percent fell after Opal (125 mph winds). Most often, they broke off at the stem (14). Tom MacCubbin from Orlando (70 mph winds) that reported older specimens were the most affected. Their trunks were twisted and distorted, and they often fell. Since this plant shows significant damage in cat 1 storms, I am giving it a low wind tolerance.

Citrus: Citrus do fairly well in cat 1 or cat 2 storms; but they don’t fare well in winds that are stronger. They have a medium wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Cocoplum (Chrysobalanus icaco): Zones 9b to 11. (The red-tipped is more cold sensitive than the green.) Cocoplum is primarily used as a hedge in the Palm Beach landscape. In its native habitat, it grows into a small tree. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had eleven ‘good’ and three ‘ok’ reports on the hedges’ performance. The tree tended to bend over, although the leaves showed no damage at all during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in this county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). This plant has a medium wind tolerance.

Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica): Zones 7 to 10b. This crepe myrtle is a star in storms in the Palm Beach landscape. I had great reports from all over the state. One homeowner from near Pensacola reported that they lost oaks, pines, and poplars but the crepe myrtle did well (17).  Pam Brown of the Pinellas County Extension said that she saw no damage on these trees with their 70-75 mph winds (3). Dr. Mary Duryea of University of Florida calls the crepe myrtle “quite good” for wind tolerance (16). According to Teresa Watkins of Florida Yards and Neighborhoods in Orlando, “My experiences with the crepe myrtles were that they survived well if they were had not been trimmed improperly. The ones on my property all did beautifully but several streets over, crepe myrtles that had been hat racked in previous years didn’t make it due to  the heavy branches at the top”(51). Holly Shackelford from the Charlotte County Extension reported that three months after cat 4 Charley the crepe myrtles were “battered, but didn’t uproot or have any broken branches. They are leaning and leafless at this point.”(47). Larry Williams reported that crepe myrtles did well in Ivan, holding up to its 125 mph winds. He only saw a few slightly uprooted other than those right along the coast (where some were lost). I classified this plant as having a medium wind tolerance in my “Best Garden Color for Florida” book. However, with these glowing reports, it clearly has a high wind tolerance.

Crepe Myrtle, Queen’s (Lagerstroemia speciosa): Zones 10 to 11. One homeowner from Ft. Lauderdale (60 mph winds) reported a queen’s crepe lost half its canopy but is coming back (17). I lost one that was planted in a container. Since we have so little data on this plant, I cannot classify it. For more information on this beautiful tree, see “Best Garden Color for Florida.” It’s popularity is growing throughout the Palm Beach landscape.

Cypress, Bald (Taxodium distichum): Zones 4-10. Tom MacCubbin from the Orange County Extension says that the bald cypress is a very strong tree (31). The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had all ‘good’ reports on this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (16). Dr. Mary Duryea of the University of Florida says that the bald cypress is all in all a sturdy tree. But she went on to say the top sometimes breaks off of the large trees, and it may uproot along lakes and ponds (16). The USDA lists this in their most wind-tolerant category. Holly Shackelford of the Charlotte County Extension reports a few broken branches, but other than that, the bald cypress made it through cat 4 Charley just fine (39). Bald cypress has a high wind tolerance. It is also useful in areas prone to flooding because it falls less than most other species in wet soil.

Cypress, Pond (Taxodium ascendens): Zones 5-10.  I saw a number of these trees down in Palm Beach County in 80 mph winds. Medium wind tolerance.

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp): This photo of rainbow eucalyptus was taken by Linda Seals from Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach. It fell in winds of about 80 to 100 mph. I received two other negative reports on eucalyptus. A homeowner from Okaloosa County (wind estimate100 mph) said that many eucalyptus trees were uprooted (14). Another homeowner from south Georgia (wind speed, unknown) reported most of the eucalyptus in his neighborhood were down (17). Most of the trees near me (80 mph) did not fall but suffered a moderate amount of crown damage. This tree is difficult to classify because of only three reports, but it has either a low or medium wind tolerance.

Ficus (Ficus benjamina) Zones 10 to 11. The ficus tree was one of the most destructive in the Palm Beach landscape. It has two big problems in dealing with wind, shallow roots and a dense canopy. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), less than 50% of these trees  were left standing (15). I even had reports of these trees toppling over in only 60 mph winds (17). When these trees fall, they uproot and expose huge root balls that are not only destructive but also very expensive to remove. On the other hand, ficus that were professionally trimmed did much better than those that were allowed to develop dense canopies that could behave like sails in the wind – at least in situations of 100 mph or less. Ficus also did better if their aerial roots were allowed to grow into the ground to increase their stability. However, if I had a ficus tree within falling distance of my home, I would remove it, regardless of the cost. They obviously have a low wind tolerance. If you like the look of a ficus, try the native strangler fig (Ficus aurea).

Floss Silk Tree (Chorisia speciosa or Ceiba speciosa): Zone 9 to 11. The floss silk tree is a gorgeous tree with a lousy wind tolerance. Just how lousy is up to debate. Surveys showed anywhere from 50% to 100% of these trees  died after hurricane Andrew within the affected area. The tree is so beautiful, however, that it certainly still has a place in the Palm Beach landscape. Just don’t plant it close enough to fall on anything important. For more information, see “Best Garden Color for Florida.” This tree has a low wind tolerance.

Geiger Tree, Orange (Cordia sebestena): Zones 10 to 11. This is a great native tree with lovely orange flowers. I wish I had more data on its wind tolerance. It has a reputation for high wind tolerance, but I don’t know how much it breaks in the winds. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had four good,  four ‘ok’, and three so-so reports on this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). Learn more about this tree in “Easy Gardens for Florida.”

Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria elegans): Zones 6 to 11. I had many reports from different areas about this tree’s brittleness. One report came from west Volusia County, where the winds were probably 60 to 70 mph, told of golden rain trees snapping in half or losing major limbs (17). This tree has a low wind tolerance.

Golden Shower Tree (Cassia fistula): Zones 10 to 11. I only have one report on this tree, a person from Ft. Myers (estimated winds 90 mph) said that of 12 out of 14 golden shower trees came down. The trees were twenty years old (17). This leads me to believe that it has a low wind tolerance, but I need more data to know for sure. For more information about this tree, see “Best Garden Color for Florida.”

Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi) Zones 9 to 11. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), less than 42% of these trees  were left standing (15). The tree remained standing in 80 mph winds of Frances and Jeanne. So, somewhere between 80 and 145 mph, the grapefruits start to fall. I am going to guestimate that this one has a medium wind tolerance.

Gumbo Limbo (Bursera simaruba): Zones 9b to 11. Most gumbo limbos do well in hurricanes. In Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew,  this was one of the top three trees with 84% still standing after the storm. (15). The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had twelve ‘good’ and five only ‘ok’ reports on this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). I had many glowing reports from throughout the southern parts of the state about this tree’s ability to stay upright during hurricanes. But it broke up a lot, and some people were left with a stick coming out of the ground where they used to have a big shade tree. But all in all, it did very well, especially in Sanibel and Captiva, which were two of the hardest hit areas of the 2004 hurricanes.  However, I did hear of two gumbo limbos dying in the Boca Raton landscape, where the winds probably didn’t top 50 mph. This tree merits a high wind tolerance. For more information about this gorgeous tree, see “Easy Gardens for Florida.”

Holly, Dahoon (Ilex cassine): Zones 7 to 10. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had nine ‘good’,  five ‘ok’, and three ‘so-so’ reports on this plant’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. They felt the difference in performance was due to the placement of the trees. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). According to Peggy Dessaint, Manatee County Extension, a 12 foot tall dahoon holly made it through 75 mph winds with no damage. It was fully exposed to the winds and located on a water-logged site near some wax myrtles that were lifted right out of the ground. (13). Adrian Hunsberger of the Miami-Dade County Extension, stated that dahoon hollies have a medium wind resistance. She says that 50% to 75% were left standing after Andrew’s 145 mph winds (25). Holly Shackelford of the Charlotte County Extension said the dahoons “came through okay” in cat 4 Charley (47). This plant deserves a high wind tolerance classification, which translates into the fact that it takes cat 3 winds fairly well.

Hong Kong Orchid (Bauhinia blakeana): Zones 9 to 11. Although this tree has a low wind tolerance, it recovers quickly when re-staked in the Palm Beach landscape. Its intolerance to wind could be due to the thickness of the canopy. I wonder if it was routinely and professionally trimmed if it would do better. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), less than 50% of these trees  were left standing (15). An old Hong Kong orchid was reported uprooted in 84 mph winds at Vanderbilt Beach near Naples (17). Even though it lacks wind tolerance, it has lovely flowers. Just don’t plant one in a location where it could fall on something important! To learn more, see “Easy Gardens for Florida.”

Ironwood, Black (Krugiodendron ferreum): Zones 9b to 11. I am intrigued by the possibilities for this small tree which eventually grows to 20 feet tall. It could be a storm superstar, one of the few that survive the really big ones. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had eight ‘good’ and one ‘ok’  reports on this trees’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. The group reported that this tree had ‘virtually no damage’ in the Palm Beach landscape. It ranked at the top of their discussion of hundreds of native plants. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). According to Roger Hammer, in Castellow Hammock in south Miami-Dade, none of these trees fell during hurricane Andrew.  Castellow Hammock received the worst wind of the north wall of hurricane Andrew, probably more than 150 mph. Roger says this tree’s success could have something to do with its small stature (22). I have never had one of these, but will be planting clumps of them in my trial gardens to try as wind screens. I have heard that the fallen berries are a nuisance. This tree has at least a high wind tolerance.

Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia): Zones 9 to 11. Jacarandas were broken and twisted by the 80 to 100 mph winds of Frances in Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach. According to Pam Brown, all of the jacaranda trees at Florida Botanical Gardens in Pinellas County (70-75 mph winds) had branches broken by the winds (3). A Ft. Lauderdale lady reported her jacaranda shredded in 60 mph winds(17). According to Teresa Watkins of Florida Yards and Neighborhoods in Orlando, “There was a “jewel” of a jacaranda on Highway 441 north of Tavares on Lake Eustis (in a little boat marina inlet) that was over 40′ in height.  With the colder temperatures in Lake County, this Jacaranda was a rarity this far north , surviving decades of traumatic freezes due to the warmth of the lake waters. People would gape and stare as they drove by on the highway when it was in full purple plumage. With the hurricanes (don’t know if it was Frances or Charley), the jacaranda split in two with half of the tree still standing and the other half (two huge branches) straddling across the cove in the water.” (42a). Based on these accounts, this tree has a low wind tolerance. See “Best Garden Color for Florida” for more information about this tree.

Jamaica Dogwood (Piscidia piscipula) Zones 9a to 11. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had one ‘ok’ and two ‘so-so’ reports on this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. They concluded that this tree breaks up in wind in the Palm Beach landscape. The winds in this county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). I had reports from Sanibel (145 mph) that these trees did indeed  break up, but recovered quickly. I hesitate to classify this tree without more data.

Java Plum (Syzigium cumini): This tree is an invasive exotic, crowding out our natural areas. It is also has a very low wind tolerance. Don’t plant this one, and if you have one in your yard, consider removing it. If it is within falling distance of your house, it could be a real danger in the Palm Beach landscape.

Lignum Vitae (Guaiacum sanctum): Zones 10 to 11. Roger Hammer, noted author and naturalist from Castellow Hammock in Miami-Dade County, has aptly named the lignum vitae “the Lamborghini of plants”.  Like the car, this plant is small, attractive, and expensive. But expensive in the plant world is not the same as in the world of luxury cars. You can get a four-foot specimen for a few hundred dollars at the time of the printing of this book. It’s problem is that it grows to its eventual height very slowly. But talk about wind tolerant! According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), she had reports of only 6 or 7 of this species, which may not be enough for a true scientific survey. However, 100% were still standing after the storm (15). This tree has always had a reputation for being unbelievably strong. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had five ‘good’ and one ‘ok’ report on this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms. This lovely small tree deserves at least a high wind tolerance, and maybe even a very high ranking.

Lime, Key (Citrus aurantifolia ‘Key Lime’): According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), 725% of  these trees fell (15). A homeowner from Vanderbilt Beach (84 mph winds) reported that half of her key lime tree was broken (14). Based on these reports, this plant gets a low wind tolerance. Plant this one in a protected location in the Palm Beach landscape.

Lime, Wild (Zanthoxylum fagara): Zones 9a to 11. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had five good and four ok reports on this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. They concluded that this tree did pretty well. The winds in this county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). Based on these reports, and the consensus of citrus as a whole, this tree gets a medium wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica): According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), 91% of these trees  fell but her sample size was small (15). I had a report from Volusia County, where winds probably reached 60 to 70 mph, of many loquats leaning (17). Many reports came in from Palm Beach County (winds 50 – 100 mph) of severe damage to loquat trees. This tree has a low wind tolerance.

Magnolia, Southern (Magnolia grandiflora): Zones 7 to 10b. Glowing reports came in from throughout the state regarding this tree’s wind tolerance. Dr. Mary Duryea reports that less than 10% had significant crown damage) in Erin and Opal, which means that it does well in up to cat 3 storms (14). Tom MacCubbin reported very little damage in Orlando’s 70 mph winds (31). I had a report from west Volusia County, where the winds were in the 60 to 70 mph range, that these trees were one of the best (17). This tree rates at least a high wind tolerance, and possibly a very high wind tolerance.  Aside from its wind tolerance, southern magnolias are better suited for temperate climates. The subtropical temperatures of the Palm Beach landscape do not  produce the gorgeous magnolias you see further north.

Magnolia, Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana): Zones 8 to 10. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had six ‘good’ reports on this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. Since ‘good’ was the best they could choose, this plant was one of the few trees in their discussions to receive perfect marks for the Palm Beach landscape. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). One report from Sebring said that this plant suffered a lot of damage, more than most other native trees. With no more data, this tree is difficult to classify.

Mahoe, Seaside (Thespesia populnea) This is one of the worst trees I have ever had because it spreads sideways wider and  faster than any other I have ever seen, killing whatever is underneath. It is also brittle, breaking easily in the wind in the Palm Beach landscape. Low wind tolerance.

mahogany bad Mahogany (Swietenia mahogani): Zones 10b to 11. Many professionals disagree about the wind tolerance of mahogany trees because it is a tree of extremes. The wood is quite brittle, so the  branches break up and fall off in very low winds in the Palm Beach landscape. The roots, however, are quite strong and they almost never uproot. Marilyn Steward (48) of Naples said that these trees lost quite a few branches there. The winds in Naples were not that high, about 60 mph, during Charley. Reports came in from Fort Lauderdale, where the winds can’t have topped 60 mph, of major limb damage (17). From Vanderbilt Beach,  near Naples, where the winds were clocked at 84 mph, one homeowner said, “It snapped off huge major limbs from three large mahogany trees, completely destroying one of them” (17). The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had five ‘good’, two ‘ok’, two ‘so-so’, and five ‘it’s-a-disaster’ reports on this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (16). However, Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph winds) showed 75% of the mahoganies were still standing (15). Even though it still stands, the brittleness of the branches rates this one a low wind tolerance for the Palm Beach landscape. For more information about this tree, see “Easy Gardens for South Florida.”

Mango (Mangifera indica): Zones 10 to 11. Although mango trees broke up a lot in 80 to 100 miles per hour winds, most survived the 2004 quartet in Palm Beach County. However, according to Crane, about 70% of the mango trees initially survived Andrew. But many of the survivors died and declined over the following four years (10). Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph winds) showed 60% of the mangoes were still standing but they were one of the five species that caused the most property damage.  (15). A homeowner from Vanderbilt Beach (84 mph winds) reported her Edward mango blew over but was righted and staked (17). This tree has a low wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Maple, Red (Acer rubrum): Zones 8 to 10b) Red Maple seems to have a decent wind resistance in its branches, as Dr. Mary Duryea reports from her survey after Erin and Opal. She says  that less than 10% had significant crown damage (over 50% branches broken) in those two storms, one of which was a cat 3 (14). However, I have a lot of reports that it blows over easily. Tom MacCubbin from Orlando (70 mph winds) states that this tree is “shallow rooted and usually blown over”(31). Jackie Dawson reports that a few large maples at her Boynton condo (winds 70 to 90 mph) fell. She stated that they were near the curb, which could have contributed to their falling.  The USDA lists this as one of the least wind resistant trees. Holly Shackelford reports that the “majority uprooted and fell over or the major limbs broke” in cat 4 Charley (47). I’m giving this tree a medium wind tolerance, with cautions.

Mastic (Sideroxylon foetidissimim): Zones 9b to 11. I’ m excited about the potential for this tree. It is quite large, too large for many residences in the Palm Beach landscape. But we don’t have many large shade trees other than the live oak that have  a high wind tolerance in the southern end of the state.  I don’t have much experience with it, though, and will shortly purchase one for our trial gardens. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had four ‘good’ reports on this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. This was the highest mark a tree could get in their discussion.  The winds in the county in which this report was generated ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). Adrian Hunsberger of the Miami-Dade County Extension office, reports that mastics have a good wind tolerance. Since Adrian lived through hurricane Andrew (145 mph), I respect her opinion! This tree has at least a high wind tolerance.

Melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia): Zones 10 to 11. Talk about extreme reports! According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey following hurricane Andrew (145 mph), 79% of these trees were left standing (15). The reason for this large survival rate may be that many of the melaleucas in Andrew’s path were in dense forests, so dense that the winds would not have been too strong in the center. The trees protected each other. I also received reports from Tampa, where winds probably reached 60 to 70 mph, that the melaleucas were one of the worst trees. A report from near Tampa (60 mph sustained winds with gusts to 80) of two melaleuca trees falling on someone’s roof (17). It looks like melaleucas have a low wind tolerance if they are planted alone. Melaleucas are one of our worst invasive exotic trees, meaning they crowd out our natural areas. This in itself is enough of a reason to remove them. But if you have one within falling distance of your house, it could pose quite a danger. Low wind tolerance for the Palm Beach landscape.

Norfolk pineNorfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla): Zones 9b to 11. This tree, which resembles a large Christmas tree, lost many of its branches in even low winds in the Palm Beach landscape. I also had reports of it blowing over. It has a low wind tolerance. But contrary to popular belief, the branches will grow back.

 

 

Oak, Laurel (Quercus laurifolia): Zones 8 to 10. This tree surprised a lot of people in its performance during Florida’s 2004 hurricanes – myself included. I had thought that, since it was a native oak (most of which are highly wind tolerant) that it would do just fine. However, the laurel oak was one of the three most destructive trees in Florida in 2004’s four storms. Most of the older specimens are in central and north Florida, and they wreaked untold damage and misery on the poor people whose houses happened to be hit by them. According to Tom MacCubbin from Orlando, the ones most affected were usually over 40 years old. That is not too old for most trees, but laurel oaks are short-lived and lose their strength and stability faster than most other oaks. They have the awful combination of both brittle wood and shallow roots, so even if they don’t fall, they break up a lot. Beth Bolles of Escambia County, which was ravaged by Ivan, said that the laurel oak was one of their worst trees (2). I also had a lot of reports of laurel oaks down in Tampa, where the winds were probably 60 to 70 mph. This tree is beginning to appear more and more in the Palm Beach landscape, and is difficult to distinguish from the much-stronger live oak. If you don’t know whether your tree is a live oak or laurel oak, look at the plant profiles of each of them in my “Easy Gardens for Florida” book. I have photos of the leaves and tell you how to differentiate one from the other.  This tree is native to Florida, which shows that not all of our native trees are tolerant of high winds. Although I ranked this tree as having a medium wind tolerance in my “Easy Gardens for Florida” book, I will definitely change it to low wind tolerance for the next printing. If you have a laurel oak within falling distance of your home, remove it before the next storm season.

Oak, Live (Quercus virginiana): Zones 5 to 11. Barbara Hadsell, our research assistant, drove to Punta Gorda (where the eye of Charley passed over) to check out the oaks. She reported that some died, but they appeared to be just at ground zero, where Charley made landfall. A short distance from that, almost all of them were releafing three months after the storm. These trees had been through winds of over 130 mph, and they were still standing! Their appearance shows why the live oak is consistently ranked as the most wind-tolerant shade tree that is widely planted in Florida. According to Dr. Mary Duryea, it even ranked as the top shade tree after hurricane Camille, which is the strongest hurricane on record to ever hit the United States. She goes on to state that this tree also did well in Opal and Erin, showing little crown damage (14). Dr. Duryea also reported that this tree survived the 145 mph winds of Andrew well, with 78% left standing after the storm. Considering the strength of Andrew, these are excellent numbers. Uprooting was the most common type of failure (15). Tom MacCubbin reported that this is a sturdy tree, with only limited branch damage in Orlando’s three hurricanes of 2004 (31). Sherry Williams, in her study of Brevard County’s landscape after the 2004 storms, reports that the live oak blows over if not given adequate room to spread and if planted in moist soils (54). Beth Bolles from Escambia County, which was ravaged by Ivan,  reported that many live oaks were still standing, although there was some canopy damage (2). According to Mark Peters of McKee Botanical Garden (120-130 mph winds), the live oaks did better than any other tree (39).  Since this tree has the ability to do that well after a cat 3, or even cat 4 storm, it deserves a very high wind tolerance. The only problem I have with live oaks is that they are so good we may end up with too many of them. This is not a healthy situation because having too many of one kind of tree is a vulnerable situation if they become susceptible to a pest. This is best illustrated with the epidemic of elm tree deaths within the same time period. Unfortunately, a bug in California causes a disease called Sudden Oak Death to live oaks. Some of these bugs were recently found in Florida but the Department of Agriculture currently has them under control. We need to find more trees that give us the advantages of live oaks in order to keep from suffering a tragedy of catastrophic proportions.

Oak, Sand Live (Quercus geminata):  Zones 8 to 10a. This is a tree that is smaller than the live oak (about 20 to 30 feet tall) but seems to share its great wind tolerance. According to Dr. Mary Duryea, it did well in Opal and Erin and generally handles hurricane force winds extremely well. She says their wind tolerance is increased if they are used in groups (16). Adrian Hunsberger from the Miami-Dade County Extension says that these oaks are in the most wind-tolerant category (25). Larry Williams from Okaloosa County (Ivan, 125 mph), reports that “this tree did quite well, even along the coast. Very storm resistant” (53).  These trees have at least a high wind tolerance and possibly a very high wind tolerance. I have not had any experience with this tree, so it will be a new one in my trial garden. I wonder if it might be a good choice for many residents who want an oak but not one as large as a live oak. Apparently, this tree does stain sidewalks, like black olives, but that is the only negative I know about so far. Photo by Joan Brookwell.

Orange, Navel (Citrus sinensis): Zones 9 to 11. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), 66% of these trees  were left standing (15). Orange trees have a medium wind tolerance.

Palm, Alexander (Ptycosperma elegans): Zones 10 to 11. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), 41% of these trees  were left standing (15). These palms have a medium wind tolerance.

Palm, Areca (Dypsis lutescens): Zones 10b to 11. This palm stays in the ground well during hurricanes but the fronds get quite torn up. I rated it with a low wind tolerance in my “Easy Gardens for Florida” book because of the damage to the fronds. But I saw some photos of areca palms in Punta Gorda that took over 130 mph winds without uprooting. (They are shown in the photo taken by Allan Theisen.) For that reason, I believe this palm has at least a medium wind tolerance.

Palm, Canary Island Date  (Phoenix canariensis): Zones 9a to 11. All sources report that  this palm has a very high tolerance for wind. It looked almost untouched after cat 4 winds hit in Arcadia.

Palm, Cat (Chamadorea cataractum):  Zones 10b to 11. The only report I have on this palm was from the Breakers at Palm Beach, which received winds of at least 100 mph from Frances and Jeanne. They looked pretty torn up. Based on this sighting, I’m giving this palm a low wind tolerance. For more information about this palm, see “Easy Gardens for Florida.”

Palm, Chinese Fan (Livistona chinensis):  Zones 9b to 11. I received a lot of conflicting information about this palm. Stephen Brown from Lee County reported a medium wind tolerance (4). Adrian Hunsberger of the Miami-Dade County extension office, categorized this palm as very wind-tolerant (25). I think the difference may be in the height of the palm. It is relatively slow-growing, staying thick and almost shrub-like for a number of years. Eventually, it grows quite tall. It must respond differently to wind at different heights. I will not classify it until I have more data. For more information about this palm, see “Easy Gardens for Florida.”

Palm, Christmas or Adonidia (Adonidia merrillii):  Zones 10b to 11. Stephen Brown from Lee County reported a high wind tolerance (4). This report agrees with all the other available data on this palm, which has a high wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Palm, Coconut (Cocos nucifera):  Zones 10 to 11. This palm is native to beach areas and usually stands through cat 4 storms. But I did get isolated reports of these trees falling in lesser winds. Mounts Botanical Gardens in West Palm Beach, which had winds of about 80 to 90 mph, had some uproot and others snap at the base. I reported in my “Easy Gardens for Florida” book that coconuts have high wind tolerance except for the Malayan dwarfs, which snap at the base. This could account for the problem at Mounts with the snapping, but not for the uprooting at such low winds. But the majority held up well in cat 4 winds. Frequently, they lost most of their fronds and look like sticks afterwards. The fronds grow back eventually. This palm has a high wind tolerance.

Palm, Date (Phoenix dactylifera)  Zones 9b to 11. This palm is similar to the Canary Island date palm. It is a beautiful, large-scale palm that makes a strong design statement in the Palm Beach landscape. Although it has some problems with pests and diseases, it has a high wind tolerance.

Palm, Foxtail (Wodyetia bifucata): Zones 10 to 11. Since this palm is relatively new to Florida, the 2004 hurricanes were our first chance to see how they did in a lot of wind. Overall, they did very well. Don Wacker, living on a barrier island off Vero Beach that received some of the worst winds from Frances (cat 2) and Jeanne (cat 3) reported that his were just planted in March of 2004 but they did well, although they required re-staking (50). This is surprising because newer palms are more susceptible to falling in windstorms than more established ones. Stephen Brown of Lee County stated that foxtails showed high wind tolerance in Charley (4). This plant has a high wind tolerance overall in the Palm Beach landscape.

Palm, Paurotis (Acoelorrhaphe wrightii):  Zones 10 to 11. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had seven good reports and one only ‘ok’ report on this palm’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). Holly Shackelford of the Charlotte County Extension reports that these palms did well in cat 4 Charley (47). This palm has a high wind tolerance.

Palm, Queen (Syagrus romanzoffiana): Zones 9b to 11. While most palms do fairly well in high winds, queen palms are the exception. They blew down all over Florida. If you still have one within falling distance of your house, consider removing it. Queen palms blow down more than most other commonly-planted Florida trees. They typically uproot rather than snapping at the trunk. According to Dr.  Mary Duryea’s survey after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), queen palms were one of the five species that did the most property damage (15). This palm has a low wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Roebellini by poolPalm, Roebelenii or Pygmy Date (Phoenix roebelenii):  Zones 9 to 11. This one is possibly the strongest plant around.  I took this photo shortly after a cat 3 hurricane (Wilma) at my house. I could see no damage whatsoever! Don Wacker, who lives near Vero Beach reported that they “fared perfectly – completely exposed to wind in excess of 120 mph and did not even require re-staking or pruning.” (50). According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), 100% of these trees  were left standing (15). I have photos of sites from Andrew and Charley where buildings were blown apart and the pygmy date palms looked untouched! This is probably the most wind-tolerant plant in this book, and has a very high wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Palm, Royal (Roystonea elata):  Zones 10 to 11. These palms are native to Florida and take up to cat 4 winds with little trouble, other than the fact that they lose most of their fronds. Even in relatively low winds, the fronds show damage. Luckily, the majority of them recover. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had five ‘good’ reports and two that were only ‘ok’ in a county where the winds ranged from 50 to 100mph during Frances and Jeanne (19). Many are reported recovering well from cat 4 Charley in Sanibel and Captiva, which were devastated by this storm. However, cat 5 winds can get the better of them. And when they fall in these very high winds, they typically uproot rather than breaking at the trunk. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), royal palms were one of the five species that did the most property damage. The larger ones fell more than the smaller ones. The average height of a fallen royal was about 45 feet while the average height of a standing royal was about 30 feet (15). However, it takes a lot of wind to knock down a royal! Remember that cat 5 storms make up only 2% of all hurricanes. This palm has a high wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Palm, Sabal (Sabal palmetto): Zones 8 to 11. This is our state tree, a title it especially deserves because it is one of our most wind-tolerant trees. According to Dr. Mary Duryea, it was the second most wind-resistant tree in the strongest hurricane on record, Camille (14). And it survived winds of at least 145 mph after Andrew. As a matter of fact, in Dr. Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew,  the sabal palm was the second best survivor, with 93% still standing after the storm (15). Don Wacker’s home on a barrier island off Vero Beach, which was hit by two hurricanes (120 mph), one tornado, and 30 inches of rain in a month,  has a total of 2l sabal palms. Although some sport interesting new angles and are quite stripped, all are alive and well (50). I have several photos of sabal palms standing tall while buildings around them are destroyed. This is one of the few trees with a well-deserved very high wind tolerance for the Palm Beach landscape.

Palm, Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens):  Zones 8 to 11. This is another one of  Florida’s wind superstars. It is native to Florida and should be used a lot more to create natural screens for more delicate plantings. Laura Tindell in Loxahatchee has a garden that was sheltered by palmettos. Her garden looked great after Frances and Jeanne (80 mph winds) while the gardens of her neighbor’s were all torn up. These amazing palms showed no damage at Don Wacker’s house (120 mph winds) on a barrier island off Vero Beach (50). According to Dr. Mary Duryea  this is the “best palm around” (16). Stephen Brown from Lee County reports that palmettos did great during Charley (4). The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had seventeen ‘good’ reports and only three  ‘ok’ reports on this palm’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). This palm has a very high wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Palm, Senegal Date (Phoenix reclinata):  Zones 9b to 11. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), 100% of these trees  were left standing but she only had a sample size of 5. (15). I haven’t had any more reports on this palm’s performance, but since the other phoenix palms did so well, this one has at least a high wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Palm, Thatch, or Florida Thatch (Thrinax radiata): Zones 10b to 11. All reports state that this palm has a high wind tolerance. It is a beautiful, native palm that deserves more use in the Palm Beach county landscape.

Palm, Washingtonia (Washingtonia robusta) Zones 9 to 11. Sherry Williams from Brevard County reported a lot of these palms blown over (53). I also received a report from near Tampa (60 mph sustained winds, 80 mph gusts) of 24 of these palms down in one neighborhood (14). And Peggy Dessaint, Manatee County Extension Agent, reports a 30 foot tall specimen broken in half in the middle of the trunk when fully exposed to 75 mph winds (13). Holly Shackelford of the Charlotte County Extension reported that Washingtonia palms did “very poorly’ in cat 4 Charley. Many “broke in half or fell over” (47). I also received some good reports about Washingtonia palms and wonder if the shorter ones are more stable than the taller ones. Nonetheless, this palm obviously has a low wind tolerance. This tree can cause major damage to houses. If you have one within falling distance of your home, I recommend having it removed.

Paradise Tree (Simarouba glauca):  Zones 9b to 11. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had three ‘good’,  two ‘ok’, one ‘so-so’, and four ‘it’s-a-disaster’ reports on this trees’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. They concluded that this tree is brittle and breaks up in winds in the Palm Beach landscape. The winds in this county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). However, the brittleness of the paradise tree does not cause it to fall. According to Roger Hammer, in Castellow Hammock in south Miami-Dade, none of these trees fell during hurricane Andrew. Castellow Hammock received the worst wind of the north wall of hurricane Andrew, probably more than 150 mph (22). Since this tree breaks up so badly, it has a medium wind tolerance.

Pigeon Plum (Coccoloba diversifolia):  Zones 9b to 11. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had eight ‘good’, five ‘ok’, and four ‘so-so’ reports on this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). I will withhold classification of this tree until I have more data.

Ryan with Australian root ballPine, Australian (Casuarina spp): Zones 9b to 11. This tree is an invasive exotic , meaning it crowds out and threatens our natural areas. It also was one of the worst trees for falling over in the hurricanes of 2004. And it does quite a bit of damage when it goes down. Check out the size of the root ball in the photo shown left. That trunk had to be chain sawed apart before we could get the debris to the curve. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), this tree performed worse than any other, with only 4% left standing (15).  This is one of the three most dangerous trees for wind damage in the Palm Beach county. If you have one within falling distance of your home, have it removed as soon as possible.

Pine, Sand (Pinus clausa): Zones 8 to 10a. Sand pines are one of the worst trees for wind tolerance. According to Dr. Mary Duryea, “Sand pine should not be planted or allowed to grow to a large size near any dwelling. It’s shallow root system appears to make it extremely vulnerable to wind.” She considered it one of the worst two in her survey of the panhandle after Erin (85 mph) and Opal (125 mph). A full 39% fell in Erin, which only had 85 mph winds! Only 46% were left after the next storm, Opal, hit a few weeks later (14). Sherry Williams from Brevard County said that this tree has “poor wind resistance.” (54). And Beth Bolles (2) from Escambia County, which was ravaged by Ivan,  reported that the sand pines turned brown. This color change could be due to the salt from the storm surge, but it can’t be good news for this tree! Sand pines have a low wind tolerance. If you have one within falling distance of your house, it is dangerous.

Pine that snappedPines, Slash (Pinus elliottii var. elliotti): Slash Pines have a good tolerance for wind in cat 1 and cat 2 storms. Some of them snap but only a few percent. When the winds reach the cat 3 category, more of them snap, enough to make it dangerous to have one near your home. In cat 4 storms, even more of them snap. They have a deep tap root, so few of them uproot unless they are flooded. In cat 5 storms, strange things happen. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s study of homeowners after hurricane Andrew, 73% were left standing after the storm. The ones that fell typically broke at the trunk rather than uprooting. Larger pines were more likely to break than smaller ones. The average fallen slash pine was about 60 feet tall, while the average pine left standing was about 51 feet  tall. Although 73% of these pines were left standing after the storm, most of them died during the following year, either to insect damage or hidden structural and root damage (15). Time will tell the survival rate of pines after the four storms of 2004. Slash pines suffer more damage if they are alone. The forest gives them natural protection, which is lost with single plantings. Beth Bolles (2) from Escambia County, which were ravaged by Ivan, reported numerous slash pines either uprooted or snapped along the trunk. Slash pines have a medium wind tolerance.

Podocarpus (Podocarpus macrophyllus):  Zones  10 to 11. Adrian Hunsberger of the Miami-Dade extension office classifies podocarpus as very wind-tolerant (25). Don Wacker, living on a barrier island off Vero Beach that received some of the worst winds from Frances (cat 2) and Jeanne (cat 3) reported that his podocarpus   “were pushed over and stripped somewhat of the top needles. They recovered after staking” (50). Larry Williams reported that podocarpus did well in Ivan (125 mph), with only minor branches splitting out (53). I heard of a few falling in Wellington (70 mph winds) but I still give this tree a high wind tolerance.

Pongam (Pongamia pinnata):  This tree has a very low tolerance for wind.

Red Bay (Persea borbonia):  Zones 8 to 11. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), she had reports of only 10 of this species, which may not be enough for a true scientific survey. However, 80% were still standing after the storm (15). The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had seven ‘good’ and five ‘ok’ reports on this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. They concluded that the tree had done well in most places. The winds in this county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). Don Wacker, living on a barrier island off Vero Beach that received some of the worst winds from Frances (cat 2) and Jeanne (cat 3) reports that his “a very old red bay fared well during the storm and was one of the few shade trees that still had significant leaves after the storms.” (50) This tree eventually reaches 40 feet in the southern area of the state, and stays smaller farther north. I have never grown this tree, but will plant one soon in my trial gardens. I have heard that it is sometimes disfigured by galls caused by insects. It has a high wind tolerance.

Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia):  Zones 10 to 11. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey after Hurricane Andrew (145 mph), 43 % of the royal poincianas fell (15). Most people agree that this beautiful tree is quite brittle and has a low wind tolerance. But it has some positives aside from fact that it has been called the most beautiful tree in the world. Many of the 57% of the poincianas left after Andrew grew back with great shapes. And I found this interesting story from Ft. Myers (wind estimate 90 mph). A site where  most of the golden shower trees fell (and major damage on bischoffias) reported very little damage on the royal poincianas that had been properly shaped last spring. For more information on royal poincianas, see “Easy Gardens for Florida.”

Satinleaf (Chrysophlyllum oliveiforme): Zones 9b to 11. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had five ‘good’ and three ‘ok’ reports on this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). According to Roger Hammer in Castellow Hammock in south Miami-Dade, none of these trees fell during hurricane Andrew. Castellow Hammock received the worst wind of the north wall of hurricane Andrew, probably more than 150 mph (22). This tree has at least a medium wind tolerance and probably higher.

Sausage Tree (Kigelia pinnata): According to Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), less than 50% of these trees  were left standing (15). Many of them fell in Palm Beach County with winds of 80 mph. This tree has a low wind tolerance.

Schefflera (Schefflera actinophylla):  Zones 10 to 11. This plant is considered an invasive exotic, meaning it is crowding out our natural areas. Its wood is brittle and breaks easily in the wind. But its roots are like iron, and it takes a very strong storm to uproot it. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), 85% of the scheffleras were left standing (15). But because of its brittle wood, this tree has a medium wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Sea Grape (Coccoloba uvifera):  Zones 9b to 11. Sea grapes are natives that naturally grow into multi-trunked plants, almost  like huge shrubs in the Palm Beach landscape. The sea grapes that were allowed to grow in their natural form did fairly well in the storms. However, some were trimmed into single-trunked trees, and these fell over a lot.  According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), 64% of the sea grapes were left standing. Sea grapes were one of the five species that caused the most property damage (13). Much better results were reported from the storms less than cat 5’s. This plant has a high wind tolerance if left to grow in its natural form in the Palm Beach landscape.

Silk Oak (Grevillea robusta):  Zones 9a to 11. This tree is quite brittle and has a low wind tolerance. Luckily, few are used in the Palm Beach landscape today.

Stopper, Redberry (Eugenia confusa):  Zones 10 to 11. I’m very excited about testing this plant. It is a small, slow-growing tree that eventually reaches 20 feet tall in the Palm Beach landscape. It has the potential to reach storm superstar status. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), she had reports on only 6 or 7 of this species, which may not be enough for a true scientific survey. However, 100% were still standing after the storm (15).The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had six ‘good’ reports on this plant’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. That is a perfect score for that society. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). This plant has at least a high wind tolerance. and possibly a very high wind tolerance. We need more data to tell. Do you have any experience with this plant in hurricanes? If so, please share it with me at pamela@pamela-crawford.com.

Stopper, Simpson (Myrcianthes fragrans):  Zones 9 to 11. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had 16 good and 6 ok reports on this plant’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). Based on this survey, this plant has at least a medium and probably high wind tolerance.

Stopper, Spanish (Eugenia foetida):  Zones 9b to 11. In Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after Andrew, this tree was the top survivor,  with 96% still standing after the storm (15). The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had ten ‘good’ and three ‘ok’ reports on this plant’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). I have no experience with this large shrub or small tree, but look forward to trying some in my garden. It has at least a high wind tolerance. This small tree grows slowly to a height of 15 to 20 feet tall in the Palm Beach landscape.

Stopper, White (Eugenia axillaris):  Zones 8b to 11. According to Dr.  Mary Duryea’s survey after hurricane Andrew (145 mph), they had reports of only 10 of this species, which may not be enough for a true scientific survey. However, 100% were still standing after the storm (15). The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had ten ‘good’ and one ‘ok’ report on this plant’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). Like the Redberry stopper, this tree has superstar potential except for the fact that it smells like a skunk! It is a small, slow-growing tree that eventually reaches 20 feet tall. I have never tried them, but will add some to my trial gardens shortly. This plant has at least a high wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Ficus standing strangler figStrangler Fig (Ficus aurea):  Zones 9b to 11. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had two good reports on this trees’  performance during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). We had a large one at my house, and right after the storms, I thought most of it was on the ground or on the roof of my son’s house next door. Once we had a chance to clean up, I realized that the tree had simply pruned itself well. The trunk and main branches of the tree were still there, but without leaves. And my son’s roof – which I had thought was quite damaged by this tree – turned out to be fine. His house was one of the few on our street without roof damage. I think the strangler fig branches actually protected his roof! But we know how fast the leaves grow back in the Palm Beach landscape. This tree has a medium wind tolerance. I would rate it higher except for the tremendous amount of debris it leaves behind in winds as low as 80 mph.

Sunshine Tree (Erythrina variegata orientalis ‘Sunshine’):  Zones 10a to 11. The top blew off my sunshine tree with 80 mph winds. It looked like a stick after Frances. But, luckily, it’s growing back quite well. For more information on this attractive tree, see “Best Garden Color for Florida.” It has a low wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Tab downTabebuia (Tabebuia spp): Zones 9 to 11, depending on species. Tabebuias are one of our least-wind tolerant trees. They routinely blow down in thunder storms. I had reports from many counties where the winds can’t have topped 60 mph, of lots of tabs down. All of these tabs were yellow. I don’t know if the pinks did any better. If you have a tabebuia tree, consider permanent staking. Since these are small trees, they did not do too much damage, and re-establish well after they are stood up, staked, and watered in. Low wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Tamarind, Wild (Lysiloma latisiliqua): Zones 10 to 11. The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had one ‘ok’ and three ‘so-so’ reports regarding this tree’s performance during Frances and Jeanne. They concluded that the tree tends to break up. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). Medium wind tolerance.

Tangerine (Citrus reticulate): Zones 9 to 11. According to Dr. Mary Duryea’s survey of homeowners after hurricane Andrew (145 mph),  33% of these trees  were left standing (14). Since this is all the information I have on this tree, I will not yet classify it’s wind tolerance for the Palm Beach landscape.

Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera): Zones 8 to 11. According to Pam Brown of the Pinellas County Extension (70-75 mph winds), the wax myrtles that were trimmed into small trees were mostly blown out of the ground throughout that county. They did not break up, but were either completely or partially out of the ground (3). The Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society had seven ‘good’ reports, five only ‘ok’ reports. four ‘so-so’ reports, and one person classified their wax myrtle as a ‘disaster’ during Frances and Jeanne. The winds in the county ranged from about 50 to 100 mph during these two storms (19). According to Sally Scalera of the Brevard County Extension: “I noticed after Charlie went through, when we drove on the beeline to Orlando, that all of the wax myrtles along the highway and around retention ponds just off the highway where blown over with the roots and soil up in the air.  I now recommend that people only plant wax myrtle in protected areas since they naturally grow so thick that they can get pushed over in high winds.” (44) From Peggy Dessaint, Manatee County Extension Agent, she saw two 20 foot tall plants that were fully exposed to 75 mph winds lifted right out of the ground on a water-logged site (13). Larry Williams from Okaloosa County reported on wax myrtle’s performance in Ivan (125 mph): “Many wax myrtles were uprooted and injured by the storm to the point that they had to be removed. I saw whole hedges of wax myrtles that were taken out by the storm.” Low wind tolerance in the Palm Beach landscape.

Ylang-Ylang (Cananga odorata):  Zones 10 to 11. The top blew off my ylang ylang tree with winds of 80 mph. It is growing back, but it looks like it might end up as a very weird tree! Low wind tolerance in the Palm Beach Landscape.

Sources and Bibliography

1. Black, Robert J. “Caring for Hurricane-Damaged Home Landscape Plants”. Fact Sheet ENH 110, A series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, 2000.

2. Bolles, Beth, Extension agent, Horticulture specialist, Escambia County. Email correspondence. 2004.

3. Brown, Pam, Pinellas County Extension. Email correspondence. 2004.

4. Brown, Stephen H. “Palm Wind Hardiness List”. Email correspondence. November, 2004.

5. Brown, Stephen H. “Salvaging Hurricane -Damaged Tropical Fruit Trees”.  Adapted from an email by Dr. Jonathan Crane, Tropical Research and Education Center, Homestead, Florida.

6. Burban, Lisa L. and Andresen, John W. Storms Over the Urban Forest, Second Edition, 1994. Chapter 8. Dempsey, Gene. “Notes from Hurricane Andrew”. Cooperators: USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Area, USDA Forest Service, Southern Region, University of Illinois, Department of Forestry, Illinois Department of Conservation, Division of Forest Resources, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Forestry. Found at http://www.na.fs.ded.us/spfo/pubs/uf/sotuf/sotuf.htm.

7. Burch, Derek. “How to Minimize Wind Damage in the South Florida Garden”. Document number ENH 64, one of a series of the Department of Environmental Horticulture, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, First printed September, 1985. Revised October 2003.

8. Caldwell, Doug. “Proper Pruning Reduces Storm Damage”. Collier County Horticulture. University of Florida, IFAS Extension. http://collier.ifas.ulf.edu.

9. Conner, William H. “Impact of Hurricanes on Forests of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts”.  Reprinted with permission from Aimlee D. Laderman, Editor, Swamp Research Center, PO Box 689, Woods Hole, MA 02543. Accepted for publication in Coastally Restricted Forests, Oxford University Press.

10. Crane, J.H., Balerdi, Carlos F. “Effect of Hurricane Andrew of Mango Trees in Florida and Their Recovery”. ISHS Acta Horticulturae 455; V International Mango Symposium. Found at http://www.actahort.org/books/455/455_42.html.

11. Culbert, Daniel. Okeechobee County Extension Service. Email correspondence.

12. Dawson, Jackie. Email correspondence

13. Dessaint, Peggy, Extension Agent, Commercial Landscape Horticulture, University of Florida Extension/IFAS, Manatee County. Email correspondence. 2004.

14. Duryea, Mary L.”Wind and Trees: Surveys of Tree Damage in the Florida Panhandle after Hurricanes Erin and Opal”. Circular 1183, one of a series of the School of Forest resources and Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, 1997.

15. Duryea, Mary L., Blakeslee, George M., Hubbard, William G., and Vasquez, Ricardo A. “Wind and Trees; A Survey of Homeowners after Hurricane Andrew”. Journal Series R-04822 of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611.

16. Duryea, Mary L., Assistant Dean for Research and Assistant Director, IFAS, University of Florida. Email and phone correspondence.

17. Florida Gardening Forum, Garden Web. http://forums.gardenweb.com/load/flgard/msg100117116999.html

18. FloridaGardener.com. “Hurricane Resistant Trees for Your Landscape.” 2004.

19. Florida Native Plant Society, Palm Beach County Chapter. Results of a survey of the membership shortly after Frances and Jeanne hit Palm Beach County. The survey was conducted informally. The main purpose of the survey was to lead a discussion at the October 2004 meeting. They collected about 40 surveys. This was not a thorough data collection effort and should not be considered as such. Also, information was not collected on non-native plants for comparison.

20. Gilman, Edward F.  “What we Learned from Recent Hurricanes and Tropical Storms”. 2004

21. Gilman, Edward F. “Evaluating and Treating Landscape Trees Following a Hurricane”. Fact Sheet ENH 105, one in a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, 2000.

22. Hammer, Roger. Naturalist and director of Castellow Hammock Nature Center for the Miami-Dade Parks Department. Phone and email correspondence.

23. Heathcote Botanical Gardens, Ft. Pierce

24. Hightower, Cliff. “Study Focuses on Wind Resistant Trees”. Hernando Today, Online Edition. November 9, 2004.

25. Hunsberger, Adrian, M.S. Urban Horticulture Agent, Entomologist, Master Gardener Coordinator, University of Florida/IFAS, Miami-Dade County Extension.

26. “Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne: Their Effects on Brevard County’s Landscape”.

27. Jarrell, Jerry D. (retired), Mayfield, Max, Rappaport, Edward N, NOAA/NWS/Tropical Prediction Center, Miami, FL and Landsea, Christropher, NOAA/AOML/Hurricane Research Division, Miami, FL. “The Deadliest, Costliest, and Most Intense United states Hurricanes from 1900 to 2000 (and Other Frequently Requested Hurricane Facts). Found at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pastdec.shtml.

28. Leu Botanical Gardens, Orlando

29. Loflin, Robert K, Ph.D., Letter to the editor, “The Agony that has been the History of Australian Pines on Public Lands on Sanibel Island is all but Over”.  Wildland Weeds. Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council and the Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council. Gainesville, FL. Winter, 2004.

30. Lovelace, John K. and McPherson, Benjamin F. “Effects of Hurricane Andrew (1992) on Wetlands in Southern Florida and Louisiana”. From the “National Water Summary on Wetland Resources”. United States Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 2425.

31. MacCubbin, Tom, University of Florida, IFAS, Extension Agent IV for Orange County, Florida. Email correspondence.

32. Martin, Carol, and Wacker, Don. Email correspondence. Their home on a barrier island near Vero Beach is about two blocks from the ocean and one lot off the intracoastal/Indian River. This area was just north of the eyewall of both Jeanne and Frances, and had some of the strongest winds (120 mph) of those storms. They also had a tornado and 31 inches of rain in 33 days.

This article was taken from ‘Stormscaping’ by Pamela Crawford.  Copyright 2005, Color Garden, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

Pamela Crawford designs and installs landscapes in Palm Beach County, Florida. You can view her work at pamela-crawford.com. Contact her at 561-371-2719 or pamela@pamela-crawford.com. This article is appropriate  throughout Pamela’s service area, including Boca Raton landscapes, town of Palm Beach landscapes, Palm Beach Gardens landscapes, Jupiter landscapes, and Wellington landscapes.