How does wind affect trees?

16 Aug 2017

Wind can be a devil with trees, causing damage, and drying out of leaves; especially when the leaf is large and fleshy, such as in Horse Chestnut. 

As a general rule, the more branches there are on a tree, the better the wind is diffused throughout it to keep the tree upright.  Constant wind drag can lead to one sided effects, demonstrated by this coastal planting near Tintagel in Cornwall. The trees resemble the shape of golf clubs, forged by the constant battering from the coastal breezxe.

If you want to plant a tree in exposed windy areas, go for multi stem or feathered trees that are bottom heavy, rather than standard trees that are top heavy and blow about too readily. Even with the best intentions, it is extremely tricky to stake and secure standard trees with long clear stems in very windy locations.  Sometimes, especially on coastal sites, you may have to admit defeat.  Take a look at the surrounding landscape and see what type of trees nature will support in your area and in some instances planting small and working your way upward can be the only way forward.

Species selection in windy areas should also be considered in conjunction with form, some trees will tolerate being blown around far more readily; being adapted to the wind in either form, as mentioned above, or due to the physiological features they exhibit.  Take care not to plant trees with excessively fleshy leaves, as these tend to be the first to be ravaged by the wind, especially during the summer months.  Trees such as Paulownia and Catalpa fall into this category, in windy conditions their large fleshy leaves get torn about by the constant battering and as such the trees will never perform at their best.

As a general rule, if trees will tolerate coastal conditions, they will contend well with the wind.   Please see our recommendations for trees that tolerate coastal locations for more information.

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