More people than ever are building their homes in the wildland-urban interface, a transition zone where urban structures and wildland coexist. These urban structures are not always in harmony with their wild neighbors, and the closer houses are built to the forest, the less defensible space there is available to defend against the risk of wildfire. Therefore, homeowners living in these areas must take extra precautions to protect their homes, lives, and property against potential wildfire.
One way to do this is to layer the landscape around your property with fire-resistant plants. These plants can function both as a defensible barrier and as an aesthetically pleasing addition to any garden or land. Fire-resistant plants are plants that are not easily ignited by a flame, and whose foliage and stems resist significantly “fueling the fire.” Other factors that contribute to a plant’s ability to resist wildfire are moisture content, age, total volume, dead material, and chemical content. If a plant is considered fire-resistant, that does not mean it is fireproof. A fire will burn these plants if they are not healthy, pruned, and properly watered.
Fire-resistant plant characteristics
- Leaves with high moisture content
- Little dead wood or dry material accumulated within the plant
- Near odorless water-like sap
- Low sap or resin materials
Highly flammable plant characteristics
- The plant contains fine, dry, or dead material such as twigs, needles, and leaves
- Volatile waxes, terpenes, or oils contained in leaves, twigs, and stems
- Leaves have a strong aromatic odor when crushed
- Thick, resinous sap with a strong odor
- Loose or thin, papery bark
Many native and ornamental plants also have highly flammable characteristics, therefore, it is important to avoid landscaping with these plants directly around your home. Fortunately, there are many trees, shrubs, flowers, and other fire-resistant plants to choose from that will add color and texture variety to any landscape.
For a comprehensive list of fire-resistant plants, including plant adaptability to different hardiness zones, take a look at DNR’s Fire-Resistant Plants for Home Landscapes publication.
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