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Oak tree hit by lightening

anna b
July 5, 2018

A large oak tree in my yard was hit by lightening last night. What should I do? I want to make sure the tree stays healthy.

Comments (8)

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

    i cant think of anything that we could dream up.. that would not be contrary to letting nature take care of it ... trees heal themselves ... encapsulate damage ... and thats that imo ...

    it might be good to ID the oak ... to find out if its in the red oak family ... then add that to your location ...

    whether or not it survives.. is left to fate.. imo ... and that will happen in tree time ... which will be years or decades ....

    if you have more lawn.. you might want to plant a new tree or two ... just for the future ...


  • krnuttle

    It depends on what the lightning did. We had an ash tree that was struck by lightning. It blew of a fairly large limb, and some of the bark. After some months I realized the bark had came loose about a for a bout a foot on each side of the obvious damage. It was a large tree. We sold the home and after several years, we went past it and the tree was still alive.

    Is there any damage above the obvious?

    Did the lightning strike the tree or jump to the tree from some where else?

    Both would affect the amount of damage the tree sustained.

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

    You may need to wait a couple of days to tell if there is damage to the grass, which might mean that the lightning moved down through the root system, a very bad sign for the tree.

    Sometimes, a lightning strike can be superficial, blowing the bark off but causing nothing but a scar. At other times, it will actually enter the xylem vessels, pretty much killing the tree from the inside.

    Trees can die instantly and you know it right away or may take months to show signs of severe decline. Affected trees will be more susceptible to insect and disease issues, branch die back and other problems.

    The best thing to do immediately is to water, water, water unless you are receiving plenty of regular rain.

    A well trained ISA Arborist will be able to visit your tree soon and "may" be able to see telltale signs not obvious to you. But there is no magic cure once the damage has been done. In many instances, your only option will be to remove the tree.

    Lightning damage to trees

  • bengz6westmd

    Nothing to do except trim away anything loose. Whether that will kill it, can't say because there might be much more damage than is immediately apparent. Here's a green ash I came across after a severe lightning storm. Hard to see, but a narrow streak of blown-off bark goes to the ground:

  • KennsWoods formerly kentrees

    The first thing to do is nothing, the lightning may have killed the tree outright. You will know shortly, if the tree is dead the foliage will collapse and brown within a few days.

  • Dingo2001 - Z5 Chicagoland

    Someone that knows will hopefully chime in - bumping this up :) I think pretty much leave it be other than trimming off any dangling pieces. Hope it survives for you.

  • drrich2

    Since no one else has answered so far, near as I can tell, and I don't know the answer, I went Googling for a credible source. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has an article, Understanding Lightning & Associated Tree Damage, and at least to my unknowledgeable eye, it seems credible. Perhaps others will comment?

    From that article, a couple of highlights:

    "If only one side of the tree shows evidence of a lightning strike, the chances of the tree surviving and eventually closing the wound are good. However, when the strike completely passes through the tree trunk, with splintered bark and exploded wood on each side, trees are usually killed."

    "Many trees are severely injured internally or below- ground by lightning despite the absence of visible, external symptoms."

    "If the tree survives long enough to leaf out the following spring, then the chances of recovery are much greater. Watering and fertilization are suggested to reduce tree stress."

  • Smivies (Ontario - 5b)

    There is nothing you can or should do.

    If the unseen damage wasn't too extensive, it should slowly close up that wound over the next ~15-20 years.

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