What to do when lightning strikes a tree

What to do when lightening strikes a shade tree

By: Paul Schnare

Saturday, August 30, 2003


Lightning storms seem to be more prevalent during the spring, summer and fall months.  Occasionally one of these strikes will hit a shade tree in your yard.  Whether it survives or not depends on several factors.


If lightening strikes in the spring during the active growth phase, chances are a direct hit will be lethal to your tree.  At other times during the year, a strike is generally not fatal.  There is no way to tell after a strike when or if a tree will die.


In the event of a lightning strike, use a knife and trim off any loose bark that may have been “blown off” of the tree.  Trim the loose bark back to where the bark is firmly attached to the wood of the tree.  Then paint the affected area with pruning paint.  Every few months, reseal the area with pruning paint until the damaged area is covered with new bark.  You make have to reseal for several years.


The best thing that you can do for your damaged tree is to make sure that it is not affected by any other stress.  In the event that a drought occurs, water the affected tree every two to three weeks.  Make sure that you water enough to get moisture to soak into the soil to a depth of 6” to 8”.   This is probably the single most important thing you can do for your damaged tree.


Early in the spring apply a tree and shrub fertilizer around the tree and water it in thoroughly.  Do this every spring and early fall for several years after a strike.


If you find dead branches in the damaged tree prune them out of the crown.  This sanitation pruning will reduce the chances of disease and insects getting into the tree and causing further damage.