Tree Susceptibility to Wind Damage

Spring and summer months bring challenges to sustaining landscaping trees. There are thunderstorms, heavy rains that may be a precursor to flooding, and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, periods of prolonged drought. There are also incidents of extremely high winds to consider. In addition to regular seasonal storms, these may result from tornadoes or hurricanes. So, what are some of the signs that a landscaping tree may be more vulnerable to high wind damage than another?

One sign of a tree’s vulnerability to wind damage is its shape. The more limbs of a tree has which form V-shaped extensions, the more susceptibility to wind damage. This is because, much like the sails of a ship, the V-shapes serve as a catch for winds. Whereas a simple elongated branch would allow the wind to flow over and escape any resistance of the tree, V-shaped branches catch the wind, also known as wind loading. The loading of the wind in V-shaped branches does not allow for an even distribution of the winds’ force over all areas of the tree. When one area of a tree is exposed more to the winds’ force, it is more likely to suffer the consequences of wind damage, which may include fallen or snapped branches, loss of leaf coverage, or, in an especially weak tree, blow-over.

Another sign of a tree’s vulnerability to wind damage is structural instability, for which several factors may be responsible. Decay is one. If a tree exhibits conks, a wood-rotting fungus, then decay is present, and if decay is present, then a tree’s structural integrity is certainly compromised. When structural integrity is no longer fully intact, then a tree’s susceptibility to wind damage is greatly increased. Another factor is insect damage, of which there is a variety. Insect damage may include that caused directly by infestation of insects to a tree or indirectly by insects’ involvement in a deteriorating process. One such example of the latter in Texas is Austin oak wilt. Though insects don’t directly infest an oak tree, they are responsible for the spread of the disease by transporting spores from diseased trees to healthy ones. By whatever method of insects’ involvement in the deterioration of landscaping trees, structural integrity is most always compromised.

Perhaps a less obvious sign of a tree’s vulnerability to wind damage is the extent of its root growth below ground. Obviously, the deeper roots grow, the more solidly anchored they are. Unfortunately, however, many trees’ roots don’t extend as deeply as some would assume. For this reason, even the largest of trees may easily succumb to wind damage, including being windthrown, or completely uprooted from the ground.

Although nothing can be done to control or prevent naturally occurring events, such as tornadoes or hurricanes, it has been recommended that it is possible to control their wind-damaging effects. Some recommend thinning a tree. The premise for doing so suggests that allowing strategic branches to catch wind while the majority of the branches allow the wind to pass through will lessen the chances that a tree will be destroyed by wind damage. In other words, allowing a few branches to bear the brunt of heavy winds is a better sacrifice than allowing the entire tree to be destroyed because of them. Seek the expertise of an Austin tree trimming professional on this matter before attempting to thin a landscaping tree independently.

Wind damage may not be preventable, but there is valuable information available to determine which trees are most vulnerable to it and why. Contact an Austin tree care specialist for additional questions or assistance.

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree service in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and oak wilt treatment. For more information on Austin tree service, please visit

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