Recreating the Country blog
Deciduous trees act as a fire retardant and are often the reason why some houses survive a bushfire when neighbouring houses are burnt. Why do they provide fire protection and how can they be used in rural areas to make summers safer?
The Weekend Australian Feb 21 2009
A former owner of the Crossways Hotel in Marysville, which survived the fire in 2009, Mr Lawrey is advising residents to plant European trees around their houses rather than eucalypts. "European trees saved my house," he said. "The embers that landed in the trees had time to burn out".
If they land in eucalypts, they burn immediately. "He said all three commercial buildings left standing in Marysville had European trees nearby. They really cooled the fire down when it reached them"
The benefits of deciduous plants.
Deciduous plants are very useful around the home and in public places not only because they add to the ambient beauty but also because they provide cooling shade in the summer and let the sunlight through in the winter.
Evergreen trees are unable to provide this shade contrast. In fact Australian natives often do the reverse and let more sunlight through in the summer by turning the flat surface of their leaves away from the sun to reduce transpiration loss. Some natives like eucalypts let in more light by shedding their leaves during the very hot dry periods.
Deciduous trees cool the air around them through transpiration. The water held in leaves is released from the stomata as water vapour. A Similar evaporative cooling principle is used in air-conditioners. On a hot day it is possible to feel the temperature drop a few degrees as you walk from the shade of native trees under deciduous trees. I experienced this tangible temperature change recently on a visit to the Adelaide Botanic gardens on a 38 degree day walking beneath a very large London Plane tree. It wasn't a coincidence that many more visitors to the gardens that day were seated under this shady tree than could be seen in the rest of the gardens.
Additional benefits of a deciduous trees and vines are fruit & nuts; timber for craft, furniture, and building; firewood, attractive flowers and autumn foliage; shade; privacy screening and as mentioned before they let in the winter sunlight which can make a cold room warmer and dry a boggy track.
Stephen Murphy is qualified in Geology and Environmental Management and has been a nurseryman and a designer of natural landscapes for over 30 years. He loves the bush, supports Landcare and is a volunteer helping to conserve local reserves.