P&PDL Picture of the Week for
August 4, 2008

Lightning Damage to Trees

Mike Mickelbart, Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, Purdue University

The photos show an ash tree that was struck by lightning. The strike resulted in the loss of a significant portion of the canopy and, more importantly, a significant amount of the bark on one side of the tree. With no additional stresses, there is a good chance that this tree may survive. The decision to keep the tree or remove it then comes down to the age of the tree (is it young enough to easily replace or is it a mature tree providing shade, etc) and the extent of the damage (is the tree shape now such that it is unsightly?). If a tree survives the strike, the biggest threat to its survival is attack by insects and disease. The bark that normally provides a protective layer to the tree is now removed and the tree is therefore more susceptible. The best thing to do is to be sure that water and nutrients are not lacking so the tree can begin to heal. Do not apply paints or other “protective” surface to the wound, as this will simply delay the healing process.

Photos by Laura Crawford

Click image to enlarge

Tree on pond

Canopy lost

Trunk damage

Damage to trunk

Back of trunk

Damage to back of trunk

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service