The Great Plains are known for wind, but the Midwest experiences its fair share of it too, and Ohio is no exception. Although the Appalachian Mountain foothills reach into the eastern and southern parts of the state, and glacial valleys blanket the northeast, the majority of the Buckeye State features relatively flat topography raked regularly by wind. Natural barriers are essential to protect crops and homes from wind’s damaging effects, and also serve a dual purpose as wildlife habitats. Certain tree varieties are better suited to be windbreaks in the state, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Eastern White Pine
Eastern white pine is a fast-growing evergreen that can reach 100 feet tall at maturity. It is native to Ohio, but primarily in the northeastern part of the state. It does not grow as well in heavy soil, like that found in northwestern Ohio, or in highly acidic soil. It also does not respond well to salt, and therefore should not be planted near a road that is often salted in winter.
A Norway spruce can reach more than 80 feet. It is native to central and Eastern Europe, but can be planted throughout Ohio, other than sites that remain very wet. It features large cones, is drought tolerant ,and grows branches close to the ground, making it a good wind barrier.
A medium-sized tree reaching up to 60 feet in height, Eastern redcedar is an Ohio native that can grow well in soil that is well drained or that includes heavy clay. It also works as a companion tree with other windbreak species, but should not be planted near apple trees because of its susceptibility to cedar-apple rust fungus.
European Black Alder
European black alder is a deciduous, medium-sized tree that grows up to 50 feet tall, and grows quickly. Its flowers are reddish-brown catkins. The European native can be grown throughout Ohio, and is most effective as a windbreak when covered with leaves. This alder does not enjoy shade or very dry soil.
The English oak tree is a moderate to slow-growing hardwood that can grow 50 feet tall and develop a massive trunk that can tame winds even when the leaves are off in winter. It produces acorns favored by deer, squirrels and other animals. It does not tolerate shade or heavy clay soil.
Growing up to 25-feet high, the Midwest crabapple, native to fields in northeast China, is a medium-sized tree that features white flower clusters in spring. These sturdy trees grow dense branches that can be effective windbreaks even in winter, and also produce small apples that are eaten by songbirds and mammals. The Midwest crabapple should not be planted near Eastern redcedar or apple trees because it can acquire apple-cedar rust.
The American Plum is a small tree, reaching only 15 feet high at maturity. White flower clusters appear in spring, making it visually appealing. Red and yellow plums serve as a wildlife food source. It is an Ohio native, found naturally in fields and open woodlots, and can tolerate most soil conditions. American Plum is not the best windbreak species, but works well mixed with others.