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Which Trees are Fire Resistant?

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Fire is one of nature‚Äôs ways of clearing the landscape. Thankfully, some trees have evolved to be more fire resistant, as our ecosystem would not survive if a fire destroyed every growing plant across the land. 

The state of California is regularly plagued by wildfires. In a single burn season, millions of trees and manmade structures. Although, California is not the only location suffering from fires. Forest fires can be triggered by man or nature almost anywhere. However, the conditions in California are suitable for large fires.

Many homeowners plant trees close to their homes. These trees pose many dangers from fires, falls, and root damage. Remember to plant trees an appropriate distance from your house. If you live in an area prone to wildfires, you can choose trees that are fire-resistant. Choosing these trees may help protect your house if a wildfire spreads.

Fire-resistant trees still can and will burn. On the other hand, they will burn slowly and at a lower temperature. The characteristics of fire-resistant trees are:

  • Deciduous
  • Big, thick leaves
  • High water content
  • Produces little wax or sap

A healthy tree with these characteristics will slow the burn of a wildfire and sustain less damage and can be considered fire resistant.

The top fire-resistant trees are:

  1. Mediterranean Cypress
  2. Coastal Live Oak
  3. American Mountain Ash
  4. Chinese Pistache
  5. Beech

1. Mediterranean Cypress

What Trees are Fire Resistant - mediterrainean Cypress

The Mediterranean cypress is likely the most fire resistant tree species. In 2012, a tragic fire spread across Spain. The fire ultimately destroyed over 50,000 acres of trees and land. However, amid the carnage stood an island of Mediterranean cypresses.

Altogether, the Mediterranean cypress withstands fire, heat, and flame seven times longer than other trees.

These trees have a high-water content. They hold a significant amount of water through the dry months. Additionally, the leaves are big and thick. Finally, the Mediterranean cypress grows with a sparse canopy of leaves. With so much space, dead leaves, twigs, and branches fall to the ground.

Surprisingly, the Mediterranean cypress breaks our characteristics list by being coniferous. The Mediterranean cypress grows to 115 feet. Besides its fire resistance, the Mediterranean cypress is a sturdy tree species. They often live to 1000 years old.

The natural habitat for these trees is around the Mediterranean Sea. However, it can grow in many conditions without issue. It will not tolerate frost well.

2. Coastal Live Oak

What Trees are Fire Resistant - costal live oak

There is serious debate about the fire resistance of the oak genus. However, the coastal live oak deserves a spot on this list. It is an evergreen oak that grows naturally across California. The trunk comprises many smaller trunks. The coastal live oak has the same potential as the Mediterranean cypress to live for 1000 years.

Coastal live oak trees grow to 82 feet in height. The leaves are large and measure close to 3 inches long. With such warm weather, the coastal live oak must retain water to survive in the climate.

These trees need well-drained, moist soil. It is a tree that will struggle to grow on the East Coast because of the frost. For sure, the coastal live oak prefers mild winters and hot summers. Wildfires are a constant occurrence in California, yet the coastal live oak regularly survives them.

3. American Mountain Ash

What Trees are Fire Resistant - american mountain ash

The American mountain ash is the first tree on our list that naturally grows on the East Coast of the United States. It does not tolerate hot climates well. Also, it is a small tree.

The American mountain ash grows to 30 feet in height and spreads to 15 feet. It grows slowly in well-drained and wet soils. The leaves growing on the American mountain ash reach 12 inches in length.

This tree is a deciduous tree. The leaves are dark green throughout the summer and yellow or orange in the autumn. Additionally, the American mountain ash retains water extremely well. With this feature, it can thrive in areas with limited water.

Overall, the American mountain ash grows easily. There is very little care or intervention needed once the tree is established. These trees live approximately 400 years which is an excellent lifespan for a tree in the American Northeast.

4. Chinese Pistache

What Trees are Fire Resistant - chinese pistache

Urban planners choose the Chinese pistache for many reasons. The leaves are large (10 inches in length) and dark. In autumn, they turn to a stunning red.

Chinese pistache trees grow to 35 feet in height with a similar size spread. They retain water well and can survive in areas of low water. With this water retention, they are drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant, and fire resistant. However, the Chinese pistache is not frost-tolerant.

In urban settings, the Chinese pistache can slow the spread of fire from building to building. It grows more than one foot per year.

When you plant your Chinese pistache, you will find the sapling to be unattractive. It can deter many planters from choosing it. As the tree matures, it becomes a magnificent tree with colors and shapes.

Chinese pistache trees prefer rocky soils at high elevations. They originate in mainland China, mostly in the northern sections.

5. Beech

What Trees are Fire Resistant - beech

All beech trees produce dark green leaves that measure up to 6 inches. The tree grows at a medium rate, approximately one to two feet per year. Ultimately, the beech tree grows to 70 feet in height. The canopy spreads to 40 feet.

Unlike the other trees on this list, the beech tree is very sensitive to drought. It does not retain water as well as the other trees. Additionally, heat can damage this tree.

Overall, the wood burns poorly and deters the spread of a wildfire so can be considered fire resistant. The canopy of the beech tree is very thick with large leaves. In fact, the canopy provides ample shade and cooling beneath.

Beech trees grow across the United States. There are 13 varieties of beech trees that all display fire-resistant characteristics. Other than protecting it from severe drought, you can plant a beech tree almost anywhere. Because they grow in so many places, they are often considered a sign of fertile soil.

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