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Are Crepe Myrtles Fire Resistant?

Are Crepe Myrtles Fire Resistant

If you live in a hot and dry area like California, Arizona or New Mexico, wildfires are a normal part of life. But, that shouldn’t inhibit you from wanting to create a beautiful green space full of trees. So, you’ll have to understand which trees have a chance of surviving a fire versus ones that will contribute to it.

But, what about crepe myrtles? Are they fire resistant? Yes, they are quite resistant to fire and come highly recommended for planting a flame-retardant garden. But, they aren’t the most resistant to fire, that honor goes to the Mediterranean cypress.

However, it’s important to understand most cypresses do not share this quality. So, if you’re looking to plant some trees, it’s a good idea to know which ones will withstand fire and what others will light up like a match stick.

Is Crepe Myrtle Fire-Resistant?

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Crepe myrtles are one of the top trees that are fire-resistant. Many experts recommend planting one in your yard if the area is prone to wildfires. It’s a popular choice for those who want an entirely fire-resistant garden.

However, they do have some specific soil requirements (they like things acidic) and need essential care that may or may not be ideal for your area. Plus, crepe myrtles are not the most fire-resistant tree you could have.

To check the current price and availability of Crepe Myrtles, click here to view the selection on Amazon.

What Is the Most Fire-Resistant Tree?

The one tree that seems to standout among all others in the way of fire resistance is the Mediterranean cypress. In the 1980s, a wicked wildfire swept through a section of Spain. This was in the same region where researchers were studying the effects of tree pathogens.

When they came back after the fire, every single tree burned down except one: the Mediterranean cypress. In fact, only 1.2% of all the cypress present sustained damage.

This is because it retains lots of water in the leaves, even when sitting in arid conditions. Also, leaves falling to the base of the tree creates a moisture-retaining absorbent barrier, further inhibiting the spread of fire.  

Other Fire-Resistant Trees

However, there are other trees that act impressively in withstanding flames, but not nearly as effective as a Mediterranean cypress:

  • Ash
  • Birch
  • California Sycamore
  • Cherry
  • Chinese Elm
  • Cottonwood
  • Crab Apple
  • Dogwood
  • Figs
  • Greenspire Linden
  • Hickory
  • Maple
  • Most Broadleaf Evergreens
  • Most Citrus Trees
  • Mulberry
  • Oak
  • Plum
  • Ponderosa Pine
  • Redbud
  • Southern Magnolia
  • Sweetbay Magnolia
  • Tulip Tree (Yellow Poplar)
  • Willow

What Is a Fire-Resistant Plant?

A fire-resistant plant is not a fireproof one. All it means is that the plant will not contribute to the blaze of a fire due to it’s water content, constituents and other elements that compose the plant. Therefore, the plant can still sustain damage and burn, but it will take a lot of heat for it to ignite.

The other contributing factors are things like the presence of dead material, chemical composition of the sap and water composition. Generally, conifers (usually evergreens) are far more flammable than deciduous trees (ones that shed their leaves in fall).

But such plants are invaluable in creating a type of firewall to help firefighters better manage wildfires. So, having a few of your own will go a long way in helping to deter the spread should one occur.

Fire-Resistant Plants Other Than Trees

However, there is a host of grasses, flowers, shrubs and bushes with an amazing capacity to resist forest infernos. While the list below is by no means complete, they include plants like:

  • Azalea
  • Barberry (Mahonia)
  • Blue-eyed grass
  • Bottlebrush
  • Boxwood
  • Burning bush
  • Butterfly bush
  • Camellia
  • Daylily
  • Forsythia
  • Gardenia
  • Honeysuckle
  • Hydrangea
  • Iris
  • Oleander
  • Most succulents
  • Periwinkle
  • Philodendron
  • Rhododendron
  • Rose
  • Russian olive
  • St. Augustine grass
  • Stonecrop
  • Witch Hazel
  • Yarrow
  • Yellow Jessamine
  • Yellow-eyed grass

What Makes a Tree or Plant Fire Resistant?

To determine if any type of plant is fire resistant, including trees, you want to study up on certain characteristics. When in doubt, you can contact your local university extension for suggestions about which plants are ideal for a fire-retardant landscape.

For instance, such plants are often lower growing with a high moisture content. These are usually draught-resistant too, with stems and leaves that aren’t oily, waxy or resinous. But the leaves will be thick and fleshy. A little moisture should seep out when you tear or puncture it.

These types of fire smart green growing things will not often create a lot of dead material or leaf litter. This usually means they are easy to prune and grow slowly or smaller than others within their own family. There won’t be any aromatic oils embedded within the sap of the wood either.

What Trees Are Fire Hazards?

Even though Mediterranean cypress is an amazing tree in its ability to resist fires, the cypress family, in general, are quite flammable. So, this fire-resistant trait is specific only to Mediterranean cypresses. Many other trees can present some serious fire hazards too. These include:

  • All Acacias
  • All Firs
  • All Spruces
  • Arborvitae
  • Bamboo
  • Cedar
  • Eucalyptus
  • Juniper
  • Larch
  • Most Pines
  • Palm Trees (when fronds are dry)
  • Yew

Final Thoughts

While crepe myrtles make an excellent choice to resist the potential for wildfires, you can consider others as well. If you can, plant a Mediterranean cypress. It’s the closest thing to a fireproof tree you can get. But, if you really want a garden alongside the trees, then also incorporate various grasses, flowers and shrubs to complete the theme.

For instance, you could have a couple crepe myrtles and Mediterranean cypresses along with yellow-eyed grass, hydrangeas and succulents. The color contrasts will look stunning with one another and you can trust they won’t sustain much damage or set alight in the event of a wildfire.

Of course, personal preference will be at the top of the priority list. So, you’ll have to plan out everything to exact specifications. You want to make sure they have their light and soil requirements along with other environmental conditions. But if you do this right, your garden will be beautiful and successful against potential fires.

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