- Author: Betty Victor
This time reminds me of when we lived at South Lake Tahoe several years ago. We had a house that had approximately 40 pine trees in the back part of the lot. We were told that we had to religiously rake up the fallen needles and remove the dead limbs from the trees. The garbage company would pick them up.
With all the devastating fires our state has seen, it had me thinking if there were any plants that are fire-resistant. What I found was some plants are, but they still are not fire-proof.
Some signs of fire-resistant plants are supple leaves, little dead material especially in the center, and water-like sap. Most deciduous trees and shrubs fall somewhere in this range. Fire-resistant plants do not ignite from a flame. Even when plants are damaged by fire the stems and foliage do not add much to the fire. Just because the plants are labeled/described as fire-resistant does not mean they are fire-proof.
Flammable plants have these characteristics about them:
Fine dead dry interior in them like Juniper that has a lot of dead matter in the center with the green foliage on the outside. Flammable plants also have wax-like leaves, and a strong odor when the leaves are crushed.
When choosing plants, consider the flammability of plants, choosing the proper plants, placement, and spacing of them. All the sites seem to differ on how far away from structures the flammable plants should be planted, some suggest 10 feet other 30 feet from the house. So, take this into consideration when planting the flammable ones.
Fire-resistant plants need to be healthy and free of any dead wood.
These sites also say using fire-resistant building material, could help. Use gravel or rock in place of dry bark mulch to make a defensible space around the home and other structures. This will not ensure that these buildings will survive but could increase the chance it might.
Some of the plants suggested by Flowers by The Sea an online nursery that I have ordered many salvias from suggesting (Salvia officinalis) like Kitchen Sage. The lists cite a lot of fire-resistant plants.
A lot of fire-resistant plants are California natives which are suggested as fire-scaping plants: French lavender, Red Monkey Flower, California Fuchsia, California lilac. Other plants that are said to be fire-resistant are Rhododendrons, Camellias, Azaleas, and Salvia are just a few. Some shrubs that are said to be fire-resistant are Photinia, Pittosporum, Plumbago, and Pineapple Guava.
Here are a few sites to look at for more information on the plants that are said to be fire-resistant.
UC Davis fire resistant plants
FBTS. Flowers by the Sea and online only nursery
Fire Safe Councils of San Diego Co.
Fires Resistant Plants, Oregon State University