Dallas Morning News - January 4, 2018
LIGHTNING DAMAGE ON TREES
Trees struck by lightning can show several symptoms and have a range of damage. In general, when lightning hits a tree, water in the cells beneath the bark is heated and boils. Steam causes an explosion that knocks bark off. A continuous groove of bark is stripped along the entire length of the trunk or main branch is common. A crack that does not run the length of the trunk may indicate a side flash of lightning that strikes the tree, travels down the trunk, then jumps to an object with less electrical resistance. If lightning strikes a bit deeper into the trunk, the entire tree may blow apart or at least all the bark will blow off. The tree may or may not have blackened or charred areas on the trunk. In some cases, the internal wood may be burned without obvious external symptoms. This wide range of damage is related to variability of factors such as intensity of the strike, moisture content on and in the tree and the type and structure of the tree.
When lightning goes down the outside of the tree ripping a strip of bark away in a thin path as you have probably seen, the damage is usually minimal to the long term health of the tree. The Champion pecan in Weatherford has more than one lightning scar and it is very much alive and healthy at several hundred years old. It’s when the lightning goes down through the center of the tree that the most damage is done. The result is usually an explosion of living tissue and all the bark is blown off. Death of the tree usually results in this case.
Immediately after a lightning strike inspect the damage. If the cambium layer beneath loose bark is still moist, the bark may be tacked in place and temporarily covered with burlap soaked in the Tree Trunk Goop mixture. If already dry, remove loose bark, water as needed, and wait to determine that the tree will survive before investing in major repairs or removal. Trees struck by lightning will be in stress to some degree no matter what and if still alive will definitely benefit from the application of the Sick Tree Treatment. Exterior cosmetic wounds can be helped with a splash of hydrogen peroxide followed by an application of Tree Trunk Goop.
Here’s the formula. Mix equal amounts of diatomaceous earth, soft rock phosphate and compost together. Add enough water to make a thick slurry. Slather this wet mix onto scrapes, cuts, borer holes, ripped places or other injuries on trunks or limbs. Reapply if washed off by rain or irrigation. In the soil, the mix makes a good organic fertilizer. Fireplace ashes can be used if soft rock phosphate isn’t available.