Plant Species

Windbreaks for Citrus

What is the ideal plant for a windbreak?

  • Fast growing.
  • Easy to establish.
  • Suitable for different environments, viz., the flatwoods (naturally variable soils mostly of the Spodosol, Alfisol, and Mollisol Orders, and disturbed sites because of ditching and bedding) and the Ridge (Entisols; soils that are naturally well drained and of relatively low fertility).
  • Little to no maintenance.
  • Long-lived.
  • Little or no invasive potential.
  • Wind resistant.
  • Relatively available.
  • Inexpensive.
  • Cold, heat, and salt tolerant.
  • Evergreen.
  • Low to zero alternate host for insect pests.
  • Low to zero host for citrus diseases.
  • Non-host for citrus canker.

On the basis of these criteria, a list of various plants and their characteristics that seem appropriate for consideration as windbreaks for citrus in Florida was compiled. The list is the outcome of a comprehensive effort that began by first talking with many people knowledgeable about native and exotic plants. Among this group of experts were:

• Conservationists and plant material specialists from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service,

• Employees of the Florida Division of Forestry,

• Faculty members of the University of Florida (UF) School of Forest Resources and Conservation,

• UF faculty members in ornamental horticulture,

• Commercial nursery plant producers particularly those raising native plants and bamboo,

• Individuals from the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (a non-profit organization administered by Florida State University) who were experts on matters related to invasive species,

• Commercial foresters, and

• Individual members of the public and private sectors of the Florida sugarcane business.

The conversations with experts were followed by a rigorous literature search that was helpful in developing information about cultural practices and site adaptation. The most important information was gathered from citrus growers who either had past experience with windbreaks or currently have groves protected by planted windbreaks or nearby natural windbreaks. Talking to growers and searching throughout the State for windbreak examples helped confirm much of the data given in the tables. Nevertheless, despite the combination of excellent quality information obtained from experts, the literature, and the field, please note the following:

The suggested plants are classified into three groups: FOUNDATION, FOUNDATION PARTNER, and OTHER based primarily on their likely function in a windbreak, or the degree of knowledge about their performance in a windbreak.

Any living windbreak will need at least one tall plant to be the “ foundation ” or upper story. The tall plants listed in the tables generally form a crown as they mature and, thus, have no or few branches near the base. Therefore, a lower story or “ foundation partner ” plant is needed to fill this gap and provide the targeted porosity. Those plants classified as “ Other ” are virtually untested as windbreak plants.

Therefore, with the exception of slash pine and red cedar, little is known from actual field experience in Florida about the suitability and function of the suggested plants as windbreaks for citrus groves. But, the listed plants were selected because their published and otherwise known characteristics are reasonable matches with the criteria given above .