Lightning Damage to Trees

Trees are often thought to add both value and beauty to properties. For this reason, numerous homeowners spend considerable time and energy investing in the maintenance of their lawns, including any landscaping trees. In spite of best efforts, however, there are sometimes elements beyond our control which cause damage to the things most sought to protect. This includes landscaping trees. And one of the most prevalent uncontrollable elements known to do trees harm is lightning.

Perhaps the most notable characteristic that puts trees at risk for lightning damage is height. Because most trees tend to grow quite tall, they are at considerable risk for attracting lightning. Other factors that may increase trees’ chances of being struck by lightning include size and location. Larger trees are made of, and therefore expose, more mass. The greater the circumference of a tree, the greater the chances that mass may encounter a lightning strike. Additionally, trees that stand alone, or are relatively devoid of neighboring trees, are also likely targets for lightning strikes. This is also true for trees that are proximal to areas of water, whether natural (such as rivers, lakes, or ponds) or man-made (such as pools), and trees that are close to sources of metal, such as electrical or water towers.

Evidence of lightning damage to a tree may vary considerably. Some of the more obvious and severe cases of lightning damage may include a tree that catches on fire or even explodes. Less obvious, but equally as severe cases may include trees that clearly show burn marks. Depending on the severity of the strike, considerable damage may be done to the tree internally, the effects of which may not be immediately apparent. It may take months to know the true extent of the damage and, unfortunately, that knowledge may come with the demise of the tree after much investment of time, energy, and resources.

Cases of minor lightning damage may include the loosening of bark or broken limbs. However, even minor injuries due to lightning strikes may lead to larger problems. For instance, in recent years oak wilt has become a prevalent disease in Austin, Texas, affecting countless oak trees. Aboveground, this disease is caused by vectors that feed on the sap of the oaks, which is located just beneath the bark. Consequently, their feeding leaves diseased spores that eventually clog the water-conducting vessels of the tree. Therefore, the tree dies from its inability to transport self-sustaining nutrients.

If a landscaping oak has been struck by lightning and the damage includes loose bark, broken limbs, or any other injury that may expose the tree’s sap to potential disease-carrying insects, it’s imperative to contact an Austin tree trimming specialist for immediate assistance.

In the event that a tree on your property is struck by lightning, there are several things that can be done to aid in its recovery from the lightning strike. First, it’s important to reduce any additional stressors. Because a lightning strike can interrupt the transport of water, particular attention must be given to watering the tree during dry conditions, especially drought. The application of fertilizer may be recommended, but an arborist should be consulted and should determine the appropriate amount necessary for the species in question. In some cases, it may also be possible to keep trees protected from lightning through the use of conductors. This may be considerably helpful for taller trees or those with some manner of historical value. As always, consult an Trees are often thought to add both value and beauty to properties. For this reason, numerous homeowners spend considerable time and energy investing in the maintenance of their lawns, including any landscaping trees. In spite of best efforts, however, there are sometimes elements beyond our control which cause damage to the things most sought to protect. This includes landscaping trees. And one of the most prevalent uncontrollable elements known to do trees harm is lightning.

Perhaps the most notable characteristic that puts trees at risk for lightning damage is height. Because most trees tend to grow quite tall, they are at considerable risk for attracting lightning. Other factors that may increase trees’ chances of being struck by lightning include size and location. Larger trees are made of, and therefore expose, more mass. The greater the circumference of a tree, the greater the chances that mass may encounter a lightning strike. Additionally, trees that stand alone, or are relatively devoid of neighboring trees, are also likely targets for lightning strikes. This is also true for trees that are proximal to areas of water, whether natural (such as rivers, lakes, or ponds) or man-made (such as pools), and trees that are close to sources of metal, such as electrical or water towers.

Evidence of lightning damage to a tree may vary considerably. Some of the more obvious and severe cases of lightning damage may include a tree that catches on fire or even explodes. Less obvious, but equally as severe cases may include trees that clearly show burn marks. Depending on the severity of the strike, considerable damage may be done to the tree internally, the effects of which may not be immediately apparent. It may take months to know the true extent of the damage and, unfortunately, that knowledge may come with the demise of the tree after much investment of time, energy, and resources.

Cases of minor lightning damage may include the loosening of bark or broken limbs. However, even minor injuries due to lightning strikes may lead to larger problems. For instance, in recent years oak wilt has become a prevalent disease in Austin, Texas, affecting countless oak trees. Aboveground, this disease is caused by vectors that feed on the sap of the oaks, which is located just beneath the bark. Consequently, their feeding leaves diseased spores that eventually clog the water-conducting vessels of the tree. Therefore, the tree dies from its inability to transport self-sustaining nutrients.

If a landscaping oak has been struck by lightning and the damage includes loose bark, broken limbs, or any other injury that may expose the tree’s sap to potential disease-carrying insects, it’s imperative to contact an Austin tree trimming specialist for immediate assistance.

In the event that a tree on your property is struck by lightning, there are several things that can be done to aid in its recovery from the lightning strike. First, it’s important to reduce any additional stressors. Because a lightning strike can interrupt the transport of water, particular attention must be given to watering the tree during dry conditions, especially drought. The application of fertilizer may be recommended, but an arborist should be consulted and should determine the appropriate amount necessary for the species in question. In some cases, it may also be possible to keep trees protected from lightning through the use of conductors. This may be considerably helpful for taller trees or those with some manner of historical value. As always, consult an Austin tree service for assistance with helping a tree survive the damages caused by a lightning strike.

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree service in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and oak wilt treatment. For more information on Austin tree service, please visit https://www.centraltexastreecare.com.

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