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New, free booklet can help you protect trees from storms


Thursday, August 17, 2006. GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have released a booklet that’s full of practical advice about how to protect your trees from storm damage – and what to do if they’re damaged despite your best efforts.

“We wanted to help homeowners with their trees. We’ve learned a lot about trees in our studies of the last 10 hurricanes and hope that our tips will help make urban trees more healthy and wind resistant,” said Mary Duryea, associate dean for research at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The booklet answers everything from when and how to prune, to choosing the sturdiest trees for your part of the state to knowing when a damaged tree needs expert help.

The 12-page, color booklet – called “Assessing damage and restoring trees after a hurricane”—is available at any of the state’s 67 county extension offices, Florida Division of Forestry offices or can be downloaded at the Florida Cooperative Extension Service’s Web site:

The publication begins with the worst-case scenario of a hurricane’s aftermath and how to safely remove felled trees, then moves on to how to distinguish storm-damaged trees that should be removed from those that have a chance for survival. It gives detailed information on pruning, specialized advice on pine trees and palms, and the final section is on prevention: how to choose the right trees for your yard, how many to plant and where to plant them.

UF/IFAS researchers have been tracking tree damage since Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and much of the advice in the booklet stems from that work.

Duryea, an urban forestry expert, says laurel oaks are among the worst at withstanding hurricane-force winds.

“I’ve measured four hurricanes in the Pensacola area,” she said, “and in every one of them, laurel oaks have wreaked havoc.”

Laurel oaks that are more than 50 years old are most likely to fall, she said. Pecan trees and sand pines don’t hold up well in high winds, either.

A Spanish-language version of the booklet is expected to be released Sept. 15.

A $500,000 grant from the Florida Division of Forestry and U.S.D.A. Forest Service’s southern region paid for the booklets, the first component of an Urban Forest Recovery Program. Fourteen more publications will be made available to the public via the Internet.

Ed Gilman, a UF urban horticulture professor, said that while the booklet is chock full of valuable information, he hopes the section on prevention will hit home.

“I think, in a sense, the prevention or reduction of problems through proper tree care – especially pruning – is the take home, long-term message,” he said. “Let’s try to reduce the damage next time.”

Here are a few of the booklet’s tips:

* Don’t wait until the last minute to think about preparing your trees for storms.
* Plant wind-resistant species. The booklet has lists of recommended trees for North and South Florida.
* Know how old your trees are. Different species have different life spans. For example, laurel oak only lives about 50 years, and becomes increasingly susceptible to storm damage and disease the older it gets.
* Give trees enough soil space so they can take root and be firmly anchored.
* Properly pruned trees survive high winds better.
* Replant trees in groups when possible. Groups do better than a lone tree that’s fully exposed to the wind.


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