Wildfire-Resistant Landscape Plants for Michigan (E2948)

Wildfire-Resistant Landscape Plants for Michigan (E2948)

Most Michigan residents are surprised to learn that Michigan experiences 8,000 to 10,000 wildland fires each year. It is estimated that forest fires, brush fires and grass fires destroy or damage 100 to 200 homes, barns and outbuildings annually.

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Introduction

Selecting the correct landscape plants to place next to or near your home could save it from catching fire. When wildfires occur, the fire moves along the ground or through brush or forests by igniting the vegetation or fuels ahead. If flammable vegetation is planted too close to a home or building and the vegetation ignites, it could also ignite the structure. Figure 1 depicts how coniferous trees can ignite and “torch” during a wildfire. If these trees were growing next to a house or building, the structure would surely ignite. This is why it is important to select fire-resistant plants when landscaping around the home.

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Figure 1. Some trees and plants can burn intensely. (Courtesy of Michigan DNR.)

Most Michigan residents are surprised to learn that Michigan experiences as many as 8,000 to 10,000 wildland fires each year. These forest fires, brush fires and grass fires destroy or severely damage 100 to 200 homes, barns and outbuildings annually. This can happen when firebrands (floating embers or pieces of burning debris) land in dry leaves that have collected under decks, around landscape plants and in eavestroughs, setting the eaves on fire. Firebrands can also ignite a wood roof. Many structures also catch fire when flames or intense heat from burning vegetation catches the deck or sides of the house on fire. Firefighters at a wildfire in dune grass near Shelby, Michigan, in 2005 (Figure 2) reported flames as high as 20 feet. Two homes were destroyed in the fire, and a number of others had fire damage. In these situations, vegetation planted or allowed to grow too close to the house served as fuel, igniting the wooden stairways, decks and siding.

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Figure 2. This wildfire in dune grass near Shelby, Michigan, in 2005 produced flames 20 feet high and destroyed two homes. (Courtesy of Michigan DNR.)

To help prevent homes and buildings from catching fire — i.e., to make them ”firewise” — simply eliminate these ignition points by creating defensible space around the home. This can be achieved, in part, through proper landscape plant selection and placement. Plants that do not burn easily are less likely to set a building on fire.

Any Plant Can Burn

It is important to understand that any plant can burn if the plant is dry enough or if it is exposed to intense heat long enough. This is true even of plants that are defined as fire-resistant. A fireresistant plant possesses several characteristics that make it less likely to ignite. For example, conifers and certain other plants contain resins and can ignite even when green; they also produce intense flames and heat. Plants such as maple, dogwood and Michigan holly do not contain such resins. Fire-resistant plants also have foliage and stems that retain moisture, such as hosta. Plants that retain dead leaves or needles, such as juniper, are not considered fire-resistant because these dead plant parts can serve as ignition points or intensify a fire. Fire-resistant landscape plants should be your first choice if you live in a rural area or an urban community bordered by natural vegetation where wildfire is a possible threat

Even before homeowners consider the right trees, shrubs and ground covers, they should look at all landscape issues. For example, a dry lawn can burn and carry a fire to the home or other structure. Lawns should be watered, and dead lawn litter should be raked and either removed from the property or composted. A green lawn will not carry a fire.

Wildfire-resistant Plant Species

The species of trees, shrubs and ground covers in Table 1 are considered wildfire-resistant and are recommended for Michigan’s climate. Remember that any plant may burn if the plant tissue becomes very dry and if the vegetation is exposed to intense heat for a period of time. Therefore, no plant is completely fireproof. In addition, some plants containing resins will burn even when green. The term “fire-resistant” in this bulletin refers to plants that will not ignite easily as long as they are alive, green and watered. It does not apply to dead plants or dead leaves and plant debris from these plants.

Table 1. Wildfire-resistant landscape plants for Michigan.

Botanical name

Common name

Category

Winter hardiness zones***

Native to Mich.**

Descriptors

Groundcovers

Achillea tomentosa

Woolly yarrow

ground cover

zones 3-7

No

herbaceous perennial

Ajuga reptans

Carpet bugleweed

ground cover

zones 3-9

No

herbaceous perennial

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Kinnikinnick or bearberry

ground cover

zones 2-6

Yes

evergreen

Armeria maritima

Sea pink thrift

ground cover

zones 4-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Asarum canadense

Canadian ginger

ground cover

zones 3-7

Yes

herbaceous perennial

Cotoneaster adpressus praecox

Early cotoneaster

ground cover

zones 5-7

No

deciduous

Epimedium spp.

Barrenwort

ground cover

most spp in zone 5-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Festuca cinerea

Blue fescue

ground cover

zones 5-9

No

herbaceous perennial

Festuca rubra

Red fescue

ground cover

SCD*

SCD*

herbaceous perennial

Fragaria spp.

Wild strawberry

ground cover

SCD*

SCD*

perennial

Gaultheria procumbens

Wintergreen

ground cover

zones 4-8

No

evergreen

Hedera helix

English ivy

ground cover

zones 4-10

No

evergreen

Hosta spp.

Plaintain lily/ hosta lily

ground cover

zones 3-9

No

herbaceous perennial

Iberis sempervirens

Evergreen candytuft

ground cover

zones 3-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Mahonia repens

Dwarf Oregon grape

ground cover

zones 5-7

No

woody evergreen

Pachysandra terminalis

Japanese pachysandra

ground cover

zones 4-9

No

herbaceous evergreen

Phlox subulata

Creeping phlox

ground cover

zones 2-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Potentilla neumanniana

Spring cinquefoil

ground cover

zones 4-7

No

woody perennial

Sedum album

Green stonecrop

ground cover

zones 4-7

No

herbaceous perennial

Sedum spathyuifolium

Stonecrop

ground cover

zones 6-9

No

herbaceous perennial

Thymus praecox

Mother of thyme

ground cover

zones 5-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Thymus praecox arcticus

Creeping thyme

ground cover

zones 5-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Thymus pseudolanuginosus

Woolly thyme

ground cover

zones 5-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Perennials

Achillea filipendulina

Fernleaf yarrow

perennial

zones 3-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Achillea millefolium

White yarrow

perennial

zones 3-9

Yes

herbaceous perennial

Achillea spp.

Yarrow

perennial

SCD*

SCD*

herbaceous perennial

Allium schoenoprasum

Chives

perennial

zones 4-7

SCD*

herbaceous perennial

Antennaria spp.

Pussytoes

perennial

SCD*

SCD*

herbaceous perennial

Aquilegia spp.

Columbine

perennial

SCD*

No

herbaceous perennial

Arabis alpine

Rock cress

perennial

zones 5-7

No

herbaceous perennial

Artemisia caucasica

Silver spreader or Caucasian sagebrush

perennial

zones 5-9

No

herbaceous perennial

Aurinia saxatilis

Basket of gold

perennial

zones 3-7

No

herbaceous perennial

Bergenia cordifolia

Heartleaf bergenia

perennial

zones 4-8

No

semi-evergreen herbaceous perennial

Bergenia spp.

Bergenia

perennial

SCD*

No

semi-evergreen herbaceous perennial

Campanula poscharskyana

Serbian bellflower

perennial

zones 3-7

No

herbaceous perennial

Campanula rotundifolia

Harebell

perennial

zones 2-7

No

herbaceous perennial

Carex spp.

Sedges

perennial

SCD*

SCD*

herbaceous perennial

Caryopteris xclandonensis

Blue mist spirea

perennial

zones 5-9

No

herbaceous to woody perennial

Centranthus ruber

Red valerian

perennial

zones 5-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Cerastium tomentosum

Snow in summer

perennial

zones 2-10

No

herbaceous perennial

Coreopsis auriculata nana

Dwarf coreopsis

perennial

zones 4-9

No

herbaceous perennial

Coreopsis spp.

Coreopsis

perennial

SCD*

SCD*

herbaceous perennial

Dianthus deltoides

Maiden pinks

perennial

zones 3-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Dianthus plumarius

Pinks

perennial

zones 3-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Dianthus spp.

China pinks

perennial

zones 3-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Epilobium angustifolium

Fireweed

perennial

zones 3-7

Yes

herbaceous perennial

Erigeron hybrids

Fleabane

perennial

zones 4-7

SCD*

herbaceous perennial

Fragaria chiloensis

Wild strawberry

perennial

zones 4-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Gaillardia x grandiflora

Blanket flower

perennial

zones 2-9

No

herbaceous perennial

Geranium cinereum

Hardy geranium

perennial

zones 5-7

No

herbaceous perennial

Geranium sanguineum

Blood red geranium

perennial

zones 3-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Geranium spp.

Geranium

perennial

zones 3-8

No

most species perennial, some annual

Helianthemum nummularium

Sunrose

perennial

zones 5 - 7

No

mounding

Heuchera sanguinea

Coral bells

perennial

zones 3-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Iberis sempervirens

Candytuft

perennial

zones 3-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Iris missouriensis

Wild blue iris

perennial

zones 3-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Iris spp.

Iris

perennial

SCD*

No

most species perennial, some annual

Lavandula angustifolia

Lavender

perennial

zones 5-9

No

herbaceous perennial

Leucanthemum x superbum

Shasta daisy

perennial

zones 4-9

No

herbaceous perennial

Liriope muscari

Blue lily-turf

perennial

zones 6-9

No

herbaceous perennial

Lupinus spp.

Lupine

perennial

SCD*

SCD*

not strong performers in Michigan

Oenothera macrocarpa

Evening primrose

perennial

zones 4-7

No

herbaceous perennial

Oenothera spp.

Primrose

perennial

SCD*

SCD*

herbaceous perennial

Papaver spp.

Poppy

perennial

SCD*

No

most species perennial, some annual

Penstemon spp.

Beard tongue

perennial

SCD*

SCD*

most species perennial, some annual

Phlox drummondii

Creeping phlox

perennial

zones 4-9

No

herbaceous perennial

Potentilla spp.

Potentilla

perennial

SCD*

SCD*

most species perennial, some annual

Salvia spp.

Sage

perennial

SCD*

No

most species perennial, some annual

Santolina chamaecyparissus

Lavender cotton

perennial

zones 6-10

No

mounding

Sempervivum tectorum

Hens and chicks

perennial

zones 3-7

No

herbaceous perennial

Solidago spp.

Goldenrod

perennial

SCD*

SCD*

herbaceous perennial

Stachys byzantina

Lamb’s ear

perennial

zones 4-7

No

herbaceous perennial

Thymus praecox arcticus

Creeping thyme

perennial

zones 5-8

No

herbaceous perennial

Shrubs

Amelanchier alnifolia

Alder-leaved serviceberry

shrub

zones 4-5

No

deciduous, also small tree

Amelanchier spp.

Serviceberry

shrub

zones 4-9

SCD*

deciduous, also small tree

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Bearberry

shrub

zones 2 - 6

Yes

creeping shrub

Aronia arbutifolia

Red chokeberry

shrub

zones 5-8

No

deciduous, also small tree

Aronia melanocarpa

Black chokeberry

shrub

zones 3-8

Yes

deciduous

Berberis buxifolia

Box-leaf barberry

shrub

zones 5-8

No

evergreen

Berberis x mentorensis

Mentor barberry

shrub

zones 5-8

No

deciduous

Buddleia davidii

Butterfly bush

shrub

zones 5-9

No

deciduous, also small tree

Chaenomeles speciosa

Flowering quince

shrub

zones 4-8

No

deciduous

Clethra alnifolia

Summersweet

shrub

zones 4-9

No

deciduous

Cornus sericea

Yellowtwig dogwood/red osier dogwood

shrub

zones 2-8

No

deciduous

Corylus avellana

European filbert

shrub

zones 4-8

No

deciduous, also small tree

Cotinus coggygria

Royal purple smoketree

shrub

zones 5-8

No

deciduous

Cotoneaster apiculatus

Cranberry cotoneaster

shrub

zones 4-7

No

deciduous

Cotoneaster divaricatus

Spreading cotoneaster

shrub

zones 4-7

No

deciduous

Cotoneaster horizontalis

Rock cotoneaster

shrub

zones 5-7

No

deciduous

Cotoneaster spp.

Cotoneaster

shrub

SCD*

No

SCD*

Daphne x burkwoodii

Burkwood daphne

shrub

zones 4-7

No

semi-evergreen

Deutzia gracilis

Slender deutzia

shrub

zones 4-8

No

deciduous

Forsythia x intermedia

Lynwood border forsythia

shrub

zones 5-8

No

deciduous

Hibiscus syriacus

Rose of Sharon

shrub

zones 5-8

No

deciduous, also small tree

Hydrangea macrophylla

Bigleaf Hydrangea

shrub

zones 5-8

No

deciduous

Hydrangea quercifolia

Oakleaf hydrangea

shrub

zones 5-9

No

deciduous

Ilex verticillata

Michigan holly

shrub

zones 3-9

Yes

deciduous

Mahonia repens

Creeping mahonia

shrub

zones 5-7

No

evergreen, also ground cover

Mahonia spp.

Creeping grape holly

shrub

SCD

No

evergreen

Myrica pensylvanica

Northern bayberry

shrub

zones 3-6

No

deciduous

Philadelphus spp.

Mock orange

shrub

SCD*

No

deciduous

Potentilla fruticosa

Shrubby cinquefoil

shrub

zones 2-6

Yes

deciduous

Prunus americana

Native plum

shrub

zones 3-8

Yes

deciduous, also small tree

Prunus besseyi

Sand cherry

shrub

zones 3-6

No

deciduous

Prunus tomentosa

Nanking cherry

shrub

zones 3-7

No

deciduous

Pyrancantha spp.

Pyracantha

shrub

SCD*

No

can have fireblight problems on more vigorous selection

Rhus spp.

Sumac

shrub

SCD*

SCD*

SCD*

Ribes alpinum

Green mound Alpine currant

shrub

zones 2-7

No

deciduous

Rosa carolina

Carolina cose

shrub

zones 4-9

Yes

deciduous

Rosa wichuriana

Memorial rose

shrub

zones 5-8

No

semi-evergreen

Rubus spp.

Raspberry

shrub

SCD*

SCD*

deciduous

Sheperdia canadensis

Russet buffaloberry

shrub

zones 2-6

Yes

deciduous

Shepherdia argentea

Silver buffaloberry

shrub

zones 2-6

No

deciduous, also small tree

Spiraea japonica

Daphne spiraea

shrub

zones 4-8

No

deciduous

Spiraea nipponica

Snowmound Nippon spiraea

shrub

zones 4-8

No

deciduous

Spiraea x vanhouttei

Vanhoutte spiraea

shrub

zones 3-8

No

deciduous

Symphoricarpos albus

Snowberry

shrub

zones 3-7

Yes

deciduous

Syringa spp.

Lilac  

shrub

SCD*

No

deciduous

Syringa vulgaris

Common lilac

shrub

zones 3-7

No

deciduous

Syringa x prestoniae

Preston lilac

shrub

zones 3-7

No

deciduous

Viburnum trilobum

American cranberrybush viburnum

shrub

zones 2-7

Yes

deciduous

Viburnum trilobum ‘Compactum’

Dwarf American cranberrybush viburnum

shrub

zones 2-7

No

deciduous

Viburnum carlesii

Korean spice viburnum

shrub

zones 4-8

No

deciduous

Viburnum dentatum

Arrowwood viburnum

shrub

zones 2-8

No

deciduous

Viburnum lentago

Nannyberry

shrub

zones 3-7

No

deciduous, also tree

Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum

Doublefile viburnum

shrub

zones 5-8

No

deciduous

Viburnum prunifolium

Blackhawk viburnum

shrub

zones 3-9

Yes

deciduous

Viburnum x burkwoodii

Burkwood viburnum

shrub

zones 5-8

No

deciduous

Viburnum x rhytidophylloides

Willowwood or Allegheny viburnum

shrub

zones 5-8

No

deciduous

Weigela florida

Old fashioned weigela

shrub

zones 5-8

No

deciduous

Trees

Acer campestre

Hedge maple

tree

zones 4-8

No

deciduous

Acer griseum

Paperbark maple

tree

zones 5-7

No

deciduous

Acer palmatum

Japanese maple

tree

SCD*

No

deciduous

Acer platanoides

Norway maple

tree

zones 4-7

No

deciduous

Acer rubrum

Red maple

tree

SCD*

Yes

deciduous

Acer saccharum

Green Mountain sugar maple

tree

zones 4-8

Yes

deciduous

Acer spp.

Maple

tree

SCD*

SCD*

deciduous

Aesculus hippocastanum

Horsechestnut

tree

zones 4-7

No

deciduous

Alnus cordata

Italian alder

tree

zones 5-7

No

deciduous

Betula nigra

River birch

tree

zones 3-9

No

deciduous

Betula spp.

Birch

tree

SCD*

SCD*

deciduous

Carpinus betulus

Upright European hornbeam

tree

zones 4-7

No

deciduous

Catalpa speciosa

Northern catalpa

tree

zones 4-8

No

deciduous

Celtis occidentalis

Common hackberry

tree

zones 2-9

Yes

deciduous

Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud

tree

zones 5-9; best from local seed source

Yes

deciduous

Cercis spp.

Redbud

tree

zones 5-9; best from local seed source

SCD*

deciduous

Cornus florida

Flowering dogwood

tree

zones 5-8; best from local seed source

Yes

deciduous

Crataegus phaenopyrum

Washington hawthorn

tree

zones 4-8

No

deciduous

Crataegus spp.

Hawthorn

tree

zones 4-7

SCD*

deciduous

Fagus spp.

Beech

tree

SCD*

No

deciduous

Fagus sylvatica

European beech

tree

zones 4-7

No

deciduous

Gleditsia triacanthos

Honeylocust

tree

zones 4-9

SCD*

deciduous

Gymnocladus dioicus

Kentucky coffee tree

tree

zones 3-8

Yes

deciduous

Juglans spp.

Walnut

tree

zones 4-7

Yes

deciduous

Liquidambar styraciflua

American sweetgum

tree

zones 5-9

deciduous

Liriodendron tulipifera

Tulip tree

tree

zones 4-9

Yes

deciduous

Magnolia stellata

Star magnolia

tree

zones 4-9

No

deciduous

Magnolia x soulangiana

Saucer magnolia

tree

zones 4-9

No

deciduous

Malus spp.

Crabapple

tree

SCD

SCD*

deciduous

Nyssa sylvatica

Black gum

tree

zones 4-9

Yes

deciduous

Plantanus occidentalis

Eastern sycamore

tree

zones 4-9

Yes

deciduous

Platanus x acerifolia

London planetree

tree

zones 4-8

No

deciduous

Populus spp.

Aspens, cottonwoods, poplars

tree

SCD*

SCD*

deciduous

Populus tremuloides

Quaking aspen

tree

zones 1-6

Yes

deciduous

Prunus cerasifera ‘Atropurpurea’

Flowering plum

tree

zones 5-8

No

deciduous

Prunus serrulata

Kwanzan Oriental cherry

tree

zones 5-7

No

deciduous

Prunus subhirtella

Higan cherry

tree

zone 5-8

No

deciduous

Prunus virginiana

Chokecherry

tree

zones 2-6

Yes

deciduous

Prunus xyedoensis

Yoshino cherry

tree

zones 5-8

No

deciduous

Pyrus calleryana

Callery pear

tree

zones 5-8

No

deciduous, may break under heavy snow/ice loads

Quercus alba

White oak

tree

zones 3-9

Yes

deciduous

Quercus macrocarpa

Bur oak

tree

zones 3-8

Yes

deciduous

Quercus rubra

Red oak

tree

zones 3-7

Yes

deciduous

Quercus spp.****

Oak

tree

SCD*

SCD*

deciduous

Salix spp.

Willow

tree

SCD*

SCD*

deciduous

Sorbus aucuparia

Euopean Mountain ash

tree

zones 3-7

No

deciduous, several pest problems

Vines

Campsis radicans

Trumpet vine

vine

zones 4-9

No

deciduous

Clematis hybrids

Clematis

vine

SCD*

No

deciduous

Lonicera sempervirens

Trumpet honeysuckle

vine

zones 4-9

No

deciduous

Lonicera x heckrottii

Goldflame honeysuckle

vine

zones 4-9

No

semi-evergreen

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Virginia creeper

vine

zones 4-9

Yes

deciduous

Wisteria sinensis

Chinese wisteria

vine

zones 5-8

No

 deciduous

*SCD — Species and/or cultivar dependent.

**Michigan’s critical dune guidelines allow only native plants to be used within 100 feet of the crest of a dune. In addition, any alteration on the lake side of the dune requires a permit, including establishing or reestablishing.

***Winter hardiness refers to the ability of the plant to withstand average low winter temperatures. Winter hardiness zones listed in the table refer to the USDA National Arboretum Plant Hardiness Zone Map (see page 12) which can also be found at http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html Other. factors will also affect the suitability of a plant for a particular climate, such as heat, humidity, soil characteristics, and water availability.

The plants and trees listed were selected after the authors reviewed and compared 15 fire-resistant plant lists from the United States, Canada and Tasmania. Because basic research where plants were exposed to fire in a laboratory setting is limited, most of the species are listed on the basis of observations of survival after being exposed to real wildfire or structural fire situations. In some cases, an entire genus is listed in the table; in other genera, only selected species are listed. One must also recognize that although the canopy of Quercus species (oak trees) will typically not ignite, dead oak leaves on the ground do not decompose quickly and are very flammable. Oak leaves serve as one of the more common fuel threats in Michigan wildfires. Therefore, it is important to keep oak leaves and other dead leaves, needles and plant debris from collecting around foundations and under decks

Your local lawn and garden centers may sell or have access to many of the fire-resistant plant species mentioned in this publication. An excellent source of information on local landscape dealers is the MSU Extension office in your county. Both the landscape dealer and the Extension agent can provide information on growing characteristics, required growing conditions, winter hardiness and planting sites required for various species.

Locating Shrubs and Trees in the Landscape

Where you locate ornamental plants is just as critical as the species selected. Spacing between trees and shrubs is important so that fire cannot jump from a plant to a structure or from one plant to another and finally to your home. Spacing depends on the species selected. It is also important to remember that the distance between two plants will decrease as they grow larger. Space plants according to their mature size, not their size at planting. The spruce trees shown in Figure 3 were planted too close to the home and are now a threat because of direct flames and radiant heat if the trees ignite.

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Figure 3. The spruce trees in this photo are located too close to the house. If they catch fire, they will likely create enough radiant heat to ignite the home. (Courtesy of MSU Extension.)

When creating defensible space in the yard, provide a minimum of 3 feet of clearance between the building and landscape plants. Non-flammable landscape material such as limestone, marble chips or even mineral soil can be used in this area. Avoid using organic mulch such as peat or wood chips within the 3-foot barrier. These materials can ignite when dry.

Leave at least 30 feet of defensible space between the building and solid stands of natural vegetation. Studies from two major wildfires in the western United States have shown that 85 to 90 percent of homes that survived those wildfires had 30 to 50 feet of defensible space and fire-resistant roofing materials. Liquid propane tanks, stacks of firewood and other potential fuels should also be located outside of this perimeter.

Houses and structures built at the crest of a hill should have 60 feet of defensible space because fire traveling uphill will move faster, be more intense and radiate more heat than a wildfire moving on level ground.

The term “ladder fuels” describes low-hanging branches and limbs that could catch fire from a wildfire moving across the ground. If the tree is combustible, such as a spruce or pine, the fire will ignite the lower branches and move upward. Should this happen, the radiant heat given off could set a nearby house or building on fire. Remove limbs and branches of combustible ornamental landscape trees within 6 to 8 feet of the ground so that fire cannot move from the ground to the lower branches of the tree and then into the canopy

When you’re planting any tree or shrub, it is important to match the species with the conditions in the planting site. Some species may grow better in sandy soils than in heavy clay soils. Some will do better than others in poorly drained areas. Other species may do better in the sun than in the shade. This information is often included on a tag attached to the tree or shrub at the garden center. If there is no tag, ask an informed employee about the preferred environment before purchasing. Again, your local Extension office will likely have this information as well. To obtain more information on planting landscape plants, obtain a copy of Extension bulletin E-2941, A Guide for the Selection and Use of Plants in the Landscape, from your county Extension office.

Maintaining the Yard and Shrubbery

If the landscape is not maintained properly, a wildfire can move across the yard and ignite a home and other structures. To decrease this possibility, keep your lawn mowed and watered. A green lawn is unlikely to catch fire and will typically serve as a protective barrier around the home. On the other hand, a yard that is managed in natural vegetation or a lawn that has become very dry could allow a wildfire to move across it and pose a danger of igniting a deck or wood siding and then the house. The home and garage shown in Figure 4 were damaged because tall grass was allowed to grow too close to the structures.

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Figure 4. A wildfire in a grassy field melted the siding on this garage and home. (Courtesy of Michigan DNR.)

It is also important to provide adequate water for newly planted trees and shrubs. Once these plants have grown and have established extensive root systems, they should usually be able to absorb sufficient nutrients from the soil and from lawn fertilizers. Regular watering will still be necessary, however, to reduce the possibility of ignition. Ornamental plants may or may not need special fertilization. This can be determined by a soil test, which is available through your local Extension office. For more information, pick up a copy of North Central Region publication 356, Fertilizing Garden & Landscape Plants & Lawns, from your county Extension office.

Summary

Each year in Michigan, wildfires damage or destroy homes and other structures. A firewise home requires adequate defensible space, fire-resistant building materials, and eavestroughs and spaces around and under the base of the home kept clean of accumulated plant litter and debris. Firewise homeowners also place other fuels such as LP tanks and firewood stacks at a safe distance from the home (Figure 5). Adding fire-resistant plants and pruning trees can greatly increase the chances that a home or outbuilding will still be standing after a wildfire passes, while also providing the esthetics that the homeowner desires.

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Figure 5. Firewise landscaping reduces the chance of wildfire damage to a home. (Courtesy of Dr. Jon Bryan Burley, ASLA, associate professor, LAP director, MSU.)

For more information on Michigan wildfires and protecting your home and family, pick up copies of Extension bulletins E-2831, Protect Your Michigan Home from Wildfire, and E-2882, Understanding Wildfire Behavior in Michigan, from your county Extension office.

Supporting Resources:

Wildfire in Michigan
www.firewise.msu.edu

Firewise Communities, 2009
www.firewise.org

Firewise Plant Lists, 2009, Firewise Communities/USA.
www.firewise.org/usa/fw_plantlists.htm

Living With Fire: A Guide for the Black Hills Homeowner.
www.state.sd.us/doa/forestry/publications/Living%20With%20Fire.pdf

Firewise Plants Offer Colorful Choices for Fire Safe Gardens
www.firewise.org/usa/files/Arkansas PlantGuide.pdf

Fire Resistant Landscaping Plants for the Sierra Springs Area
http://ceeldorado.ucdavis.edu/files/4017.pdf

Firewise Plant Materials
www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/natres/06305.html

Making Your Landscape More Resistant to Wildfires
www.firewise.org/usa/files/florida.pdf

Protecting and Landscaping Homes in the Wildland/Urban Interface
www.cnr.uidaho.edu/extforest/Fire ProtectBro.pdf

 Fire-Resistant Plants for Montana Landscapes
http://extn.msu.montana.edu/publications.asp

Firewise Plant Materials
http://aces.nmsu.edu/defensible_zone/protect/docs_pdf/fire_wise.pdf

Firewise Plant Materials
www.ces.ncsu.edu/forestry/pdf/ag/firewise_landscaping.pdf

Fire-Resistant Plants for Home Landscapes
http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/html/pnw/pnw590/pnw590.pdf

Fire Retardant Garden Plants for the Urban Fringe and Rural Areas
www.fire.tas.gov.au/mysite/publications/1709%20Brochure.pdf

Quick Guide to Firewise Shrubs
www.interfacesouth.org/products/pdf/Shrub_Flammability.pdf

Firewise Plants for Utah Landscapes
www.utahfireinfo.gov/prevention/firewiseplants.pdf

Fire Resistant Plants
www.srd.gov.ab.ca/wildfires/firesmart/default.aspx

 Fire Resistant Plants for your Landscape
http://plumasfiresafe.org/Documents/PNF_BRD%20Fire%20Resistant%20Plants.pdf

 Firewise Landscaping
http://estore.osu-extension.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=2050

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