From seashores to plains and mountaintops, gardeners encounter windy conditions that challenge their landscape design skills. Whether you want a tree that will resist hurricane-strength winds, form part of a windbreak or simply look great as a specimen tree on a property subject to high winds, there are small, deciduous trees to fulfil any of these garden needs. These small trees often do double-duty by providing food and habitat for wildlife species.
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Although many hardwoods are large trees, some smaller, shrubby species that are ideal for windbreaks. Jefferson County Conservation District recommends the Douglas maple (Acer glabrum) as a fast-growing western native tree that is also useful for wildlife habitat. University of Missouri suggests Amur maple (Acer ginnala), which is an introduced species that tolerates a variety of locations, including dry, shallow soils.
Spring-flowering trees are welcome additions to any landscape. Surprisingly, some familiar species are very wind-tolerant. For example, the University of Florida IFAS Extension finds dogwoods (Cornus florida) among the most wind-resistant species in studies of tree damage following major hurricanes. Both the Plant Materials Program, based in Texas, and the University of Missouri, praise the pink-flowering redbuds (Cercis canadensis) for use in windy areas. These can stand alone as specimen trees or provide glimpses of colour in a windbreak planting.
Many deciduous fruit-bearing trees are wind-tolerant, adding a bonus of food for wildlife and sometimes a snack for the gardener too. Native plums (Prunus americana and P. angustifolia), in particular, are wind-tolerant and adapted for use across most of the United States, good for windbreaks and wildlife habitat, as well as for their tasty fruit. Several small-fruited trees show excellent wind-resistance. These include the serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), black hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii), Pacific crabapple (Malus fusca) and elderberry (Sambucus spp.). These trees not only stay small, but also grow at a medium pace. Although they are diverse species, they serve similar functions in the landscape, providing modest floral displays, followed by black or red fruits, which are summer and fall food for birds and other wildlife. All can be planted in windbreaks or other mixed plantings. Pacific crabapples are well-suited for moist sites.
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- University of Missouri Extension: Planning Tree Windbreaks in Missouri
- Plant Materials Program: Windbreaks: Their Use
- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry: Windbreaks that Work!
- Jefferson County Conservation District: Hedgerows and Windbreaks
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Wind and Trees: Surveys of Tree Damage in the Florida Panhandle after Hurricanes Erin and Opal