It’s impossible to know when and where lightning can strike. When you hear that first clap of thunder that means lightning is already here. With summer in full swing and the humidity spiking, thunderstorms and lightning are inevitable. Mother Nature tends to seek out its own creation, but unfortunately, it’s not always for the best. Trees are at the biggest risk for lightning strikes because of how tall they can get and that they’re attached to the ground making them a great electrical conduit. With trees being at such a high risk for a strike how can you protect them? The short answer is, you can’t, but if a tree is struck by lightning you might be able to save it. Here’s how:

Signs of a Lightning Strike

The first step is to determine whether the tree has been hit or not. Damage can range from minimal cracking to the tree being totally destroyed. With minimal damage, pay attention to the tree trunk itself. You should be looking for the bark peeling off or cracking. The root will also have significant damage. You may even notice the ground around the tree is cracked along the root structure. The leaves could be wilted, or the branch it stripped because of the heat coming off of the lightning bolt. In extreme cases, the tree can either start burning or explode altogether.

lighting strike

Why does the damage vary so much?

It’s pretty fascinating when lightning strikes the tree. It’s not just a singular spot like when a brush catches on fire and the fire spreads. When lightning strikes a tree, typically the current follows the grain of the wood going after the line of least resistance. With elm and oak trees the grain is vertical where pine trees are spiral grains. The strength of the lightning bolt plays a huge factor in how much damage the tree will have as well.

What to do after the tree has been struck?

When lightning strikes you need to determine the:

fallen over & broken tree
  • Age of the tree
  • Where it’s located. If it’s by water like a pond of a creek it’s more likely to get hit. Be careful if the tree is close to the house, the play area, and more. The tree could fall causing more damage than a simple lightning strike.
  • What condition the tree is in
  • How bad the strike was itself

If the tree is repairable you’ll probably have to:

  • Prune and get rid of the branches are that damaged. This will allow the tree to focus on healing its trunk and will eventually produce more branches.
  • Irrigate the ground and the roots
  • Add fertilizer for extra nutrients
  • Spray on an insecticide. Your tree will be extremely vulnerable which will invite insects and diseases if your tree is not protected.