Assessment of the flammability of ornamental vegetation (particularly hedges) planted around houses is necessary in light of the increasing urbanization of the wildland–urban interfaces (WUIs) and the high fire occurrence in such areas. The structure and flammability of seven of the species most frequently planted as hedges in Provence (southeastern France) were studied at particle level. Spatial repartition of the different types of fuel particles within plants was assessed by means of the cube method. The leaf flammability was assessed using an epiradiator as a burning device, and measurements of foliar physical characteristics and gross heat of combustion (GHC) helped to explain the results of burning experiments. Co-inertia analysis revealed that species with thin leaves were quick to ignite (Pyracantha coccinea, Phyllostachys sp.) and species with high leaf GHC burned the longest (Pittosporum tobira, Nerium oleander). Species presenting high ignitability (Photinia fraseri, Phyllostachys sp. and Pyracantha coccinea) were characterized by high foliar surface area-to-volume ratio, and species presenting lower ignitability were characterized by high GHC (Pittosporum tobira, Nerium oleander, Cupressus sempervirens).
Hierarchical cluster analysis of the flammability variables (ignition frequency, time-to-ignition and flaming duration) categorized the relative flammability of the seven species (including dead Cupressus sempervirens) in five clusters of species from poorly flammable (Pittosporum tobira) to extremely flammable (dead Cupressus sempervirens).
This study provides useful information for reducing fire risk in WUIs in the study area.