How to Save an Oak Tree Struck by Lightning: A Guide
According to research, lightning hits oak trees far more frequently than other tree species. Oaks are usually some of the tallest trees in the landscape. They are also more conductive thanks to their higher moisture content and the vast number of water-filled cells running up and down their trunks.
Although oaks are prime targets during thunderstorms, there are ways to save an oak tree struck by lightning.
Oaks aren't just Zeus's favorites—they're one of the most popular trees with us humans as well. Often growing as old as 600 years or more, these majestic trees are believed to be symbols of wisdom and strength.
If you have had an oak tree struck by lightning, chances are you'd like to rescue it if you can.
Fortunately, it is possible to save an oak tree struck by lightning, providing you know what to do, and the damage is not too severe. If you would like to find out how, keep reading as we share the top tips for treating an oak tree struck by lightning.
Inspect the Damage
If you've had an oak tree struck by lightning, the first thing to do is inspect the damage.
This part can be a bit tricky. Sometimes lightning damage will be obvious to the eye, taking the form of cracked and broken boughs, singed leaves, or blasted off bark. However, besides causing these exterior injuries, lightning can also cause serious internal damage to an oak tree.
As the lightning bolt travels down the stem, it can cause sap cells to rupture (this sometimes causes bark loss), creates air pockets in the stem, and literally fry the roots.
This damage won't be visible to the eye. Therefore it can be difficult to tell how badly an oak tree is injured from the outside.
However, if the oak is obviously dead or so severely injured that it clearly won't recover, you might want to have it removed by a tree service company. Lightning struck trees in very bad shape can prove dangerous as their trunks might be severely weakened and damaged branches may fall off suddenly.
On the other hand, if your oak had not been hit too badly, then you'll want to move on to treating it. Let's take a look at how to do this.
Water Your Oak Well
After inspecting your tree, the next step in treating an oak tree struck by lightning is watering it. Often, lightning struck trees are badly wilted. Watering them helps to rejuvenate any leaves that might still survive.
You should aim to water your oak as soon as possible, preferably within 8-24 hours after it's been hit. Water loss is often one of the most stressful effects of a lightning strike for trees.
Besides the initial watering, you should also try to keep your oak's root system moist until the tree has recovered. Be aware, however, that oak trees do not like to sit in water. They do best in moist, well-drained soil.
If your soil does not have good drainage, take extra care not to over-water the tree.
Prune Back Damaged Branches
Once you have watered the oak, you might also need to prune off any damaged branches. Splintered and cracked branches should be trimmed off, both for safety reasons and for the tree's health.
Do not trim too heavily at this point. As time passes, you will be able to see if further areas die off and need pruning. Initially, however, you should aim only to take off damaged branches that make the tree vulnerable to rot and infection.
At this point, some sources will tell you to apply a dressing to damaged areas or trimmed boughs. This, however, is not necessary. Research has shown that tree dressings are not effective at helping trees seal wounds or ruptures.
In fact, dressings can often interfere with the sealing process by preventing proper drying, encouraging mold growth, and even acting as a food source for pathogens. Therefore, avoid applying dressings or sealant products.
Feed Your Tree to Encourage New Growth
The other thing you can do when saving a tree struck by lightning is to feed it. If the tree is severely damaged, you may want to opt for a fast-release chemical fertilizer to provide instant nutrition.
You can also topdress your injured oak tree with a layer of compost and mulch the area with bark chips to prevent water evaporation from the soil.
If you want to save an oak tree struck by lightning, feeding is an important step—as the tree will often have to do a lot of regeneration during its recovery.
Keep a Sharp Eye Out for Pests
When a tree undergoes severe trauma, it can often become vulnerable to pests. Wounds in the trunk and limbs can also act as weak spots whereby boring beetles can make their way in.
As your oak tree is recovering, you must keep it free from any pests that might become attracted to it. Inspect it regularly, and apply pesticide treatments if you spot an infestation in the making.
Now You Know How to Save an Oak Tree Struck by Lightning
The final step to healing an oak tree struck by lightning? Wait and see.
There is no guarantee your tree will survive. However, by implementing these steps, you will be giving it the best chance to start regrowing.
Want to know another way you can give your oak tree the best chance of survival? Calling in the professionals.
If you need to save an oak tree struck by lightning, it can often be wise to seek expert advice. You know now what to do for an oak tree struck by lightning, but implementing the treatment measures can be tricky.
Here at Green Topps, we are qualified to evaluate your damaged tree and equipped to undertake any pruning and devise a watering, feeding, and pest management schedule.
What's more, we take pride in leaving every property we work on in immaculate shape, and every client happy with our services.
Call us today and give your oak the chance it deserves.