PROTECTING FRUIT TREES FROM HURRICANE (CYCLONE) BLOW-OVER

Here in South Florida we live in an area nicknamed 'Hurricane Alley'. It is not a question of whether these tropical cyclones will eventually arrive, but when. We should be prepared well in advance of these high winds, doing everything possible to prevent our orchard trees from being blown over and up-rooted, which can cause severe damage. However, if they go through the storm still standing, the only damage is from leaf loss which is quickly replaced by new foliage. Some fruits require many years to bear, such as up to 17 for langsat (Lansium domesticum) and 12 or more years for mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) which almost guarantees a tropical hurricane will arrive over such an extended period. Now the question surfaces, "What can we do to keep the trees upright?"

Here in my Bal Harbour, Florida grove I use iron pipes, driven into the ground three feet or more and securely tied to the trunk of the tree I'm trying to protect. The size of the pipe varies with the trunk diameter and amount of foliage of the tree you are securing it to. For small plants I use -inch pipe all the way up to 3-inch pipe for the largest ones. Eventually trees become too big for pipe support and will require 'hat-racking'. The 3-inch pipe is 21 ft long, weighing 74 pounds and cost US$1.00 per lb. The problem with large diameter pipes is driving them into the ground. For this I use a manual pipe driver similar to that used to drive metal fence posts, which should be available at most fencing supply outlets.

Trees like the South American Sapote (Quaribea cordata) with surface prop roots seldom need protection from wind storms.

It has been my experience that trees blown over with exposed broken roots frequently do not survive in spite of quickly being returned to a vertical position with their roots recovered with soil. To attach the pipe to the tree trunk, I use suitable lengths of garden hose with heavy wire passed through its center. As the tree's trunk increases in diameter a larger hose and heavier wire will be required to prevent girdling.

How well does this work? I have four mangosteen trees growing that are pipe-supported. Although they have been there many years and through numerous hurricanes, not one has blown over and all are in excellent shape. Without the pipe supports, they would have not survived the first storm.

Now, let's suppose your pipe-supported trees have passed though a recent cyclone upright, but have hardly any leaves left. Without the usual foliage to shield the trunk and branches from the intense sunlight following the tropical storm, they are now subject to sun scald. To avert this calamity it is now necessary to paint them with a white water-based latex paint to reflect the sun's destructive rays. We did this on our seven-acre longan (Euphoria longana) grove using a 25-gallon power sprayer with complete success. If it worked for us, I'm sure it will do the same for you.

William Francis Whitman, Bal Harbour, Florida

DATE: August 2001

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