Lightning can damage trees quite severely by inflicting burns on the bark. If you live in an area that has major electrical storms, this can be cause for concern. Learn some ways that lightning can damage trees, and you’ll know when to call a professional arborist for help:
1. Bark scars – When lightning hits a tree, it tends to travel through the sap just under the bark. When it does, the bark (and possibly some of the wood underneath) can be blasted off, exposing the wood to the elements.
2. Sap explosion – In some cases, lightning can travel through sap closer to the heart of a tree. In that case, the tree could explode, sending branches and splinters flying. This happens to trees with rotting areas in the trunk where moisture concentrates closer to the center.
3. Root damage – Sometimes, trees can be struck by lightning and suffer no apparent harm… only to die some time later. In those instances, it is possible that lightning damaged the roots. With root damage, trees may die unexpectedly because the injured area was hidden.
4. Indirect damage – There are incidental complications that can hurt a tree’s health after a lighting strike. These include disease and insects. If the bark of a tree is damaged, that can leave a tree vulnerable to infection or infestation.
Here’s how to deal with a tree that has been struck by lightning:
1. Prune damaged branches – Removing damaged wood protects passersby and pets from the potential of falling branches.
2. Perform damage assessment – Find out exactly how the tree has been damaged and, if possible, how to fix it. Use this time to determine if the tree is likely to live and if you should call an expert to save it.
3. Remove loose bark and wood – Taking these parts away removes a potential breeding ground for insects and germs. Removing dead wood also makes it easier for the tree to begin the process of healing and growing new bark to cover the wound.
4. Paint the wound with shellac – While the tree grows new wood to replace what the lightning burned off, you can paint the wound with shellac. This protects the wound from possible infection. While asphalt tree paint could be used, it can slow the tree’s rate of healing. It’s best to have a tree care professional determine what, if anything, should be applied for protection.
5. Water and fertilize the tree – Water and fertilizer will facilitate healing. Do not over-fertilize the tree as this can actually starve the tree of nutrients it needs to survive.
While these methods can help in the event that your trees are struck by lightning, contact Timberlane Tree Service to assist with your tree-related needs. You can reach us at (905) 778-9438 (Newmarket), or (416) 878-2108 (Toronto).