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Tree Talk - Metropolitan Forestry Services

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July 23, 2020

Shocking: Lightning Strikes and Your Trees

Lightning strikes have been a major issue in our landscapes especially this summer during storm season.  In addition to the very obvious physical damage, they can also interfere with the vascular system of trees.  Strikes can vary greatly in their intensity and the damage caused.  Even if the lightning strike blows away large sections of bark, the damage may not always be fatal.  The best advice is to wait and see. Damage may not be immediately apparent. Electricity can travel from the top of the tree, through the trunk and into the ground, with very little noticeable outward signs. Other times, the tree could have sections of bark or limbs blown off.  The internal damage can take months or even years to present signs. A healthy vigorous tree may be able to recover, while a tree that is stressed may not be able to.

What to do if lightning strikes your tree:
  • First and foremost – make sure the tree is safe to approach and there is no imminent danger of downed wires, electrical hazards, or dangerous limbs!
  • An arborist should inspect it immediately to check that the structure of the tree is not compromised.
  • As long as the structure is secure, we recommend waiting 4-6 weeks before performing any surgery or corrective pruning. It takes time before the tree shows the full extent of the damage and die-back.
  • In the meantime, the exposed areas should be treated for insects to keep borers and carpenter ants out.
  • When it’s safe to assume that the tree is going to live, surgery work should be done to clean out any damaged bark/wood. Apply insect control measures to the wound.
  • Any form of lightning strikes will stress the tree, so supplemental watering and fertilizing is important to mitigate stress.
  • For very tall, important trees in your yard, you should definitely consider installing lightning protection systems (these systems work just as they do on structures).
  • Continue to have your Arborist monitor the tree on a yearly basis.

If you have any questions please feel free to give our staff a call.


Lightning stripped the bark from this tree in Creve CoeurLightning struck Ash tree in Ladue with bark blown off

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