What should you do if your tree is struck by lightning?

There is no question that lightning poses one of the greatest threats to massive trees. There are more trees that are hit by lightning than you might have thought. Nevertheless, not all trees are equally vulnerable to lightning strikes, and you can save certain trees that have been struck. If lightning strikes, it instantly turns the substances inside the tree to fire, and the tree bark bursts. Approximately 50 percent of trees die instantly when they are hit by lightning. Some of the others become debilitated and susceptible to illness.

The damage caused by the lightning varies widely, depending on the tree. Sometimes when hit, a tree splits or shatters. Lightning blows out a strip of bark on other trees. Others still appear unharmed, yet suffer unseen root injury that will kill them in a short time. When you come across a tree that is struck by lightning, note that if the tree was highly damaged or not. In this case it is important to learn how to save a tree that was struck by lightning. When you start repairing lightning damaged trees there’s no guarantee of success.

Even if your tree did not die as a result of a strike per se, it may have been wounded, leaving an inlet for insects or pathogens to attack and long-term weaken the tree. When examining the tree, realize that there may still be a residual electrical charge around the immediate area of the blast site, hence do not touch the tree instantly or approach it immediately. If trees are hit by lightning, additional resources are required to regenerate that tree. Bringing the plants sufficient amounts of water is the first step to reducing lighting damage in trees.

With additional irrigation, they can take supplemental nutrients. When you repair damaged trees with electricity, give them fertilizer to promote new growth. It is very likely that trees hit by lightning that survive until spring and leaf out will recover. Another way to start restoring weakened trees by lightning is by pruning broken leaves and ripped timber. Do not make extensive pruning until a year has passed by so you can evaluate the actual damage performed. If the layer of cambium (cell layer where tree growth occurs) is still damp beneath, loose bark may be addressed in place and partially protected with burlap or plastic. Instead, cut loose bark, water if required, and wait to decide if the tree presents a threat before engaging in major repairs.

For advice regarding the health of your broken tree, check with a licensed or qualified tree services professionals. However, when it becomes clear that the branch is not healing from the lightning strike, ask for logger or a lumberjack to cut the tree safely. As prevention is better than cure, you may consider installing a lightning protection system that uses copper cables connected to the uppermost branches of the tree and grounded a few meters away from the tree to avoid lightning from damaging your trees.

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