Lightning Struck My Tree: What Should I Do?

Beautiful lightning

When it rains, lightning storms often occur and strike the trees.

It is the greatest threat to massive trees. Each year, thousands of trees get struck by lightning. There have been instances when trees got blasted by lightning. More than 100 lightning strikes occur around the world every second. So, your tree is also at risk of getting struck by lightning. All trees are susceptible to lightning, but some are at more risk, like oak, gum, maple, poplar, and pine trees.

Experts suggest not standing under trees during lightning to avoid the risk of being killed due to lightning strikes. So, it is dangerous to take shelter under a tall tree in a thunderstorm.

Let’s scroll down to know what happens to the tree when it gets hit by lightning and the methods to sustain it.

What Happens When a Tree Gets Struck by Lightning?

When a tree gets struck by lightning, the consequence depends on the tree’s species, the level of moisture in it, and the health state of the tree. Lightning can cause damage instantly; when lightning strikes a tree, the water turns into gas, which causes the outer layers of the tree to explode. As discussed above, around 50% of the trees that get hit by a lightning bolt die instantly, while others lose their strength and develop several health issues.

Keep in mind that a tree is a living thing. When it gets hit by a strike, its biology tends to change. A lightning strike leaves a scar that can be fatal; however, many lightning-struck trees survive. It may get injuries in the root system that does not let the tree thrive, and it dies slowly.

Signs of Tree Damage by Lightning Strike

Lightning damage is not entirely noticeable, but you may not notice the exact symptoms to identify if your tree has suffered the damage in some cases. Lighting strikes affect a layer underneath the bark that is not visible. So, it is likely that your tree may look fine from outside for days and even weeks and begin to damage slowly. Conversely, some trees may die just after the lightning strike. 

Some signs of tree damage may include:

  • A crack or slit that goes downwards the tree trunk
  • Sparse or drooping leaves all through the canopy
  • Burned or blackened areas of bark

What can be the Degree of Damage?

When a tree gets struck by lightning, it can suffer damage in different forms. Sometimes, the tree suffers an attack and does not die. 

1. The Tree Survives

The tree has water content stored under the bark. Since water is an electrical conductor, it lets the lightning strike penetrate the out layers of the tree destroy them. This lightning blast will scar a tree.

2. It Escapes the Damage

It is the condition when heavy rain soaks the exterior part of the tree. It is likely that lightning will only affect a small area around the tree and will not harm it too much.

3. The Tree Dies

It occurs when a tree already has a weak structure and one or more disease-affected areas. These trees have water content stored deeper in their trunk, so a lightning strike can hit the plant’s center and ultimately cause significant damage. It can cause an explosion that will blast all branches, including splinters and huge wood chunks. Even in severe cases, a tree trunk can split into two parts.

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What Do I Do When My Tree Gets Hit by Lightning?

It requires taking quick action if your tree gets hit by lightning in some cases. Some trees may survive with or without human intervention. You can follow the below–mentioned steps to maintain the health of your tree. 

1. Help your Tree to Reduce Water Loss

The first and foremost thing you need to consider after the lightning strike is to take some action to help your tree start self-healing by providing it with plenty of water. Due to a strike, your tree experiences moisture loss, and it can damage your tree to a great extent. 

2. Provide Fertilizers to Help it Grow

The second thing you can do is to make sure to provide enough fertilizer to maintain the growth of your tree. A damaged tree is likely to survive if the scarred barks and broken branches have minor issues. It would help if you kept them in check to minimize the damage spread. If your tree has damaged layers, it tends to be more vulnerable to different diseases. 

It is better to provide your tree fertilizers to encourage its growth. However, enough water and fertilizer will take care of your tree and let it heal from the damage. 

3. Trim Broken Branches

Another way to repair your tree is pruning the broken branches, including torn wood. Suppose your tree has got irreparable and extensive damage. In that case, you need to remove the damaged part because they can also infect the healthy parts of your tree. If you do not remove the damaged part, it can cause several threats to your healthy trees. 

4. Consult with ISA Certified Arborist

Suppose the lightning has caused extreme damage that it is hazardous for the people and animals in the surroundings. In that case, you can consult a tree care expert in your local area. They can suggest the best solutions and advise trimming or removing the tree. In addition, you can wait for two months to monitor your tree’s health if it recovers timely. If you find the tree structure excessively unbroken and not healing by any means, you can hire a professional expert to help you. 

A certified arborist can suggest cabling and tree bolting systems, soil conditioning fertilizing, and a suitable watering program. You can also have a lightning protection system installed in advance with the help of a certified arborist. It will prevent your tree from potential risks and damage. 

Bottom Line

Overall, the above points can be helpful for you to help your tree recover from damage. After all, a lightning strike is a natural process that can occur at any time. It would help if you adopted some preventive measures to protect your tree from high risk and extensive damage. Besides, you can always get help from an expert tree service company in case of extreme damage. 


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