At the root of the problem
I T d r o p s l e a v e s l i k e Molly Meldrum drops names, but in a cyclone it will stand tall against the fiercest winds and has even been known to catch a flying roof in its all-embracing branches.
The mango tree, maligned by many because of its untidy nature, is the tree North Queensland old timers vow is the only plant specimen that should be given pride of place in suburban gardens.
And now their viewpoint has been backed up by James Cook University’s Dr Betsy Jackes, an Adjunct Associate Professor in Marine and Tropical Biology.
Dr Jackes has compiled a list of trees best suited t o c y c l o n i c e n v i r o n - ments. And she had no hesitation in ranking the mango up there with the best of them when it came to standing proud and tall against cyclonic winds.
‘‘ I have been told that in Cyclone Althea ( Townsv i l l e , 1 9 7 1 ) s o me o n e watched terrified as a roof from a house hurtled towards their own home in Mundingburra, but it was s t opped when i t caught in the branches of a large mango tree,’’ she said.
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Dr Jackes said there were no trees that would always stand up to cyclonic winds, but added that some were more w i n d - r e s i s t a n t t h a n others. ‘‘ How well a tree p e r f o r ms d e p e nds o n many factors such as how wet the soil is at the time, the intensity and duration of strong wind gusts, and particularly the type of root system,’’ she said.
Dr Jackes said trees with deep roots systems or with tap roots had a better chance of standing up than those such as some figs and African mahoganies .
Dr Jackes has been collecting information for h e r g u i d e C h o o s i n g Plants For Areas Prone To Cyclones ever since Cyclone Althea in 1971.
Apart from the mango, some of the trees mentioned in her extensive list include milky pine, foxtail palm, Burmese r o s e w o o d , t u c k e r o o , b l a c k b e a n , s m a l l e r paperbarks, Leichhardt tree, black tea tree, sea almond, and Kaffir bean tree.