Fire-Prone Plants

Fire Prone PlantsIdentifying Fire-Prone Plants

Use this list to identify Marin's most common fire-prone plants.  These plants ignite readily and burn intensely, and should be avoided (or removed, if noted) if present in a home's Defensible Space zone or close to roads and driveways.  If removal is not an option, intensive maintenance may be required to reduce flammability.  Your fire department may require removal of the plants on this list within 100' of structures.

This list is not comprehensive and is intended to identify only the species most common in Marin.  Learn more about fire-prone plants.


 

Acacia species

Acacia species

Acacia spp.

Acacia melanoxylon (Black Acacia) is very quick-growing tree to 40 feet tall or much more with a 20 feet wide and in maturity an oval shaped crown. It has rough dark gray bark with vertical fissures and mid-green leaf-like flattened stems, called "phyllodes", that are 3 to 5 inches long by about an inch wide with one margin straight and the other curved. Small creamy flowers are in a small ball-like cluster from late winter into spring and are followed by thin curling seed pods that hang in brownish sheaves. A durable tree for quick growth, screening and erosion control, however its fire prone nature makes it unsuitable for WUI locations in Marin. The aggressive roots can lift sidewalks, damage foundations and plumbing and together with leaf, seed pod and branch litter and its propensity to sucker and reseed, makes this tree not ideal for street plantings or near living areas.

  • Acacia species
  • Recommendation: Remove
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: No
  • Acacia species

Arborvitae

Arborvitae

Thuja spp.

Thuja is a genus of coniferous trees in the Cupressaceae (cypress family). There are five species in the genus, two native to North America and three native to eastern Asia. The genus is monophyletic and sister to Thujopsis.

They are commonly known as arborvitaes, (from Latin for tree of life) thujas or cedars.

Thuja are an extremely fire prone species, and shoud not be planted in the defensible space zone or near driveways or roadways.

  • Arborvitae
  • Recommendation: Remove
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: No
  • Arborvitae

Bamboo

Bamboo

Bambusa spp.
Bamboo is a grass species, commonly grown as a screen or hedge. Invasive and very fire prone, it should be removed within 30 ' of structures.
  • Bamboo
  • Recommendation: Remove
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: No
  • Bamboo

Black Sage

Black Sage

Salvia mellifera
  • Black Sage
  • Recommendation: Avoid
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: No
  • Black Sage

California Bay

California Bay

Umbellularia californica

Umbellularia californica is a large hardwood tree native to coastal forests of California and slightly extended into the state of Oregon. It is endemic to the California Floristic Province. It is the sole species in the genus Umbellularia.

The bay tree, like so many others, will develop differently depending upon the conditions in which it is growing. When found on drier hillsides, it is generally smaller, with yellower leaves and smaller nuts. In a canyon with its roots in plentiful water and rich soil, the leaves will be thinner and darker green and whole tree, nuts and leaves will generally be larger.

Because of its thin bark, the tree is easily top-killed by fire, but it sprouts rapidly. Dense clumps are often formed on cutover land, which may prevent the establishment of desired conifers.

  • California Bay
  • Recommendation: Remove
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: Yes
  • California Bay

California Buckwheat

California Buckwheat

Erigonum fasciculatum
  • California Buckwheat
  • Recommendation: Avoid
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: No
  • California Buckwheat

Cedars

Cedars

Cedrus spp.
  • Cedars
  • Recommendation: Avoid
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: No
  • Cedars

Chamise, Greasewood

Chamise, Greasewood

Adenostoma fasciculatum
Adenostoma fasciculatum is a flowering plant native to Oregon, Nevada, California, and northern Baja California. This shrub is one of the most widespread plants of the chaparral biome. This plant is a major component of the chaparral and is holding the soil on the hillsides in California. Chamise also protects the soil after fires as it crown sprouts back from the base. A good understory plant that grows well under chamise, with a nice mulch of chamise leaves and twigs, is Viola pedunculata.
  • Chamise, Greasewood
  • Recommendation: Remove
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: Yes
  • Chamise, Greasewood

Chaparral Pea

Chaparral Pea

Pickeringia montana
  • Chaparral Pea
  • Recommendation: Avoid
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: Yes
  • Chaparral Pea

Chinquapin, Giant

Chinquapin, Giant

Chrysolepis chrysophylla
  • Chinquapin, Giant
  • Recommendation: Avoid
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: Yes
  • Chinquapin, Giant

Coastal Sagebrush

Coastal Sagebrush

Artemisia californica
  • Coastal Sagebrush
  • Recommendation: Avoid
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: Yes
  • Coastal Sagebrush

Coyote Brush

Coyote Brush

Baccharis spp.

Baccharis pilularis, called coyote brush (or bush), chaparral broom, and bush baccharis, is a shrub in the daisy family native to California, Oregon, Washington, and Baja California. The plants are found in a variety of habitats, from coastal bluffs, oak woodlands, and grasslands, including on hillsides and in canyons, below 2,000 feet (610 m).

Coyote brush is known as a secondary pioneer plant in communities such as coastal sage scrub and chaparral. It does not regenerate under a closed shrub canopy because seedling growth is poor in the shade. Coast live oak, California bay, Rhus integrifolia, and other shade producing species replace coastal sage scrub and other coyote bush-dominated areas, particularly when there hasn't been a wildfire or heavy grazing.

In California grasslands, it comes in late and invades and increases in the absence of fire or grazing. Coyote bush invasion of grasslands is important because it helps the establishment of other coastal sage species.

  • Coyote Brush
  • Recommendation: Remove
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: Yes
  • Coyote Brush

Cypress

Cypress

Cupressus spp.

They are evergreen trees or large shrubs. The leaves are scale-like, arranged in opposite decussate pairs, and persist for three to five years. On young plants up to two years old, the leaves are needle-like. The cones are long, globose or ovoid with four to 14 scales arranged in opposite decussate pairs; they are mature in 18-24 months from pollination. The seeds are small, 4-7 mm long, with two narrow wings, one along each side of the seed.

Many of the species are adapted to fire, holding their seeds for many years in closed cones until the parent trees are killed by a fire; the seeds are then released to colonise the bare, burnt ground. In other species, the cones open at maturity to release the seeds.

The fast-growing hybrid Leyland cypress, often found in gardens, draws one of its parents from this genus (Monterey cypress C. macrocarpa).

  • Cypress
  • Recommendation: Remove
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: No
  • Cypress

Douglas-Fir

Douglas-Fir

Pseudotsuga menziesii
  • Douglas-Fir
  • Recommendation: Avoid
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: Yes

Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus spp.

Eucalyptus globulus, blue gum eucalyptus, is a tree that is not native to California. It is an invasive plant that was introduced from Australia and naturalized in the wild. The California Invasive Plant Council (CAL-IPC) classifies the most common blue gum eucalyptus as a moderate invasive because the trees need certain conditions to thrive.

All eucalyptus species are prone to fire, and should be removed or require significant maintenance within 100' of structures to reduce wildfire hazards.

  • Eucalyptus
  • Recommendation: Remove
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: No
  • Eucalyptus

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