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09 Jun 2017
tree lightning strike

What to Do If Your Tree Is Struck by Lightning?

Lightning can undoubtedly be considered as one of the greatest threats to massive trees.

As a matter of fact, every year, thousands of trees get struck by lightning. Moreover, it has long been proven that taking shelter under a tall tree in a thunderstorm is one of the most ill-advised things to do.

Being usually the tallest object around a given area makes a tree a natural lightning rod during tempestuous weather. There have even been recorded instances of trees getting blasted by lightning in sunny weather! And with more than 100 lightning strikes happening around the world every second, there’s a fairly good chance that your tree might get hit one of these days.

During spring and summer seasons, lightning strikes become more prevalent, and while not all trees attract lightning (short ones come to mind), it is critical that you learn how to assess lightning damage just in case your plant does get hit.

 

Assessing Tree Damage

When lightning blasts a tree, the impact can be felt instantaneously. The moment it hits, it turns the tree’s water into gas, causing the plant’s outer layers to explode outwards. This effect is catastrophic; 50% of trees hit by a bolt die immediately while others suffer extensive damage, making them vulnerable to diseases.

Among the most common tree species that get hit by lightning are oak, gum, maple, poplar, and pine trees.

 

Degree of Damage

When a tree gets hit by lightning, there are three possible outcomes: The tree escapes damage; it suffers damage but survives with nothing but a scar; it dies.

The Tree Survives

Most of the trees’ water content is stored just under the bark. With water being a superb electrical conductor, the lightning strike will penetrate the outer layers of the tree obliterate them. Lightning blasts will typically scar a tree.

The Tree Escapes Damage

There are times when heavy rain has soaked the tree’s exterior.  When this happens, there’s a chance that the lightning will just cascade around the tree and leave it relatively unscathed.

The Tree Dies

Dying trees—especially ones with an already compromised structure—will typically have one or more areas that are being ravaged by disease. Since these have most of their water content concentrated deeper in their trunk, any lightning strike can fully penetrate the plant’s center and utterly destroy the tree. This can cause a powerful explosion that will send large and small branches flying (including splinters and huge chunks of wood), and even split the trunk into two.

 

What to Do after Lightning Strikes Your Tree

Before you inspect the tree, know that there may still be a residual electric charge around the immediate area of the blast site; do not approach the tree immediately. Let a few minutes pass then take a look at the plant and assess the damage it received from the lightning strike.

The first step that you should do in treating a damaged tree is by supplying it generous amounts of water. Make sure to provide fertilizer as well to help stimulate new growth. Damaged trees that survive until the spring season are most likely to recover from a lightning strike.

Know though, that while scarred barks and broken branches can be considered as minor issues, you have to check from time to time and see that the damage hasn’t spread—trees that have damaged layers become more vulnerable to certain pests and diseases.

Another way that you can do to save a hit tree is by pruning the broken branches, including any torn wood. A word of caution however: Do not do extensive pruning until a year has passed after the lightning strike.

For trees that have suffered extensive, irreparable damage, you need to remove them from your area especially if they are near healthy trees. Leaving them there can sometimes cause numerous arboreal threats to infect your healthy trees. Consult an expert tree removal team to help you get rid of the damaged tree.

 

Tree Protection against Lightning Strikes

In order to prevent lightning from harming your trees, you may consider installing a lightning protection system that uses copper cables attached to the tree’s uppermost branches and grounded a few meters away from the tree.

Once the lightning strikes, the electricity will be diverted to the cable assembly, leaving your tree unscathed.

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Pixabay.com photo by AgencjaAIAC

28 Mar 2017
Can I Save My Tree?

Customer Question of the Month: Can I Save My Tree?

Understanding the Signs That Tell You If a Tree Is Worth Saving or If It’s Too Late

 

When a tree in your property sustains damage from a storm or if it develops some kind of disease, it’s often difficult to determine whether or not it can still be saved.

Trees are strong and robust when they’re healthy and well maintained. But if they’re suffering from a disease, have sustained significant storm damage and are dying, they can be dangerous when left unattended.

But here’s the thing.

Tree removal isn’t always the most practical solution when dealing with a dying tree. You see, if a dying tree is situated in a location where it’s not in danger of falling onto people or structures, it can be left alone to die in peace.

Keep in mind that even old dead trees still provide a habitat for different species of birds and other animals. So it’s really not necessary to have a dead tree removed, unless it poses a clear and present danger to its surroundings.

Obviously though, there’s still the question of whether to save a tree from dying, just leave it be, or have it removed by a tree professional. Here are a few things you should consider to help you determine whether you should save your tree or start calling tree removal services in your area.

 

Can You Still Save Tree from Dying or Is It Too Late? Here’s What You Need to Do:

 

1. Assess the damage and overall condition of the tree.

Before you decide to have a storm-damaged tree removed from your property, you might want to consider the following:

  • Does the tree still look healthy and strong, besides the obvious damage it sustained from the storm?
  • Did the tree sustain serious structural damage? Can you see major limbs broken? Large broken limbs pose a serious threat to the tree’s health and recovery.
  • After the storm, does the tree still have more than 50% of its crown? A tree needs its crown in order to survive and recover, especially after sustaining storm damage. The overall condition of the tree’s crown is a good indicator of health and survivability.
  • Check the remaining branches that are intact and see whether they are strong enough and structurally sound to form new branches. Broken branches are not necessarily a death sentence for the tree, as long as there are enough solid limbs for new foliage to grow.
  • Check the size of the wounds sustained by the tree, especially those where branches have been torn and broken. Larger wounds will leave the tree susceptible to disease and infestation.

 

2. Think long and hard before making a decision on what to do with a damaged tree.

Trees are important to the environment and to any property they grow on. So before you decide on the fate of a tree in your property, you better think long and hard and not make any rash decisions that you might regret later on.

In general, you need to consider a number of things before you pull the trigger on having the tree removed.

First and foremost, you need to think about safety. Does the tree, in its current weakened state, pose a threat to the surroundings, especially people and structures? If the tree is located near a sidewalk or a pathway, it could pose a danger to pedestrians. If it’s located right beside the garage or your house, falling limbs and branches could pose serious damage to your property.

On the other hand, if the tree is situated somewhere there’s no people walking or hanging around it, no structures it could fall on to in the event it collapses, you can hold off on the removal process and wait to see if there’s even the slightest chance the tree could recover.

Secondly, if the tree has sustained relatively minor damage, you should give it a chance to recover before you end its life. Trees are a lot more resilient than most people think when given the chance and provided with the best care possible.

Lastly, you should contact a Certified Arborist to help provide a more complete assessment of the condition of the tree. Compared to other tree professionals, the number one priority of an Arborist is to save the tree rather than just cutting it down and be done with it.

More info:

 

Stocksnap.io photo by Balungile Mbenyane

09 Feb 2017
Winter Stress on Trees and Shrubs

A Tree Owner’s Guide to Dealing with Winter Stress on Trees and Shrubs

Strong wind gusts, snow, and ice brought about by harsh winter storms can cause limbs and branches of trees to break. In some cases, these may result to a tree falling over. This is just one of the main challenges a tree faces during winter.

As a tree owner, how you deal with the winter stress on trees and shrubs has a significant impact on its recovery and overall health in the coming seasons. Here are a few useful tips to keep in mind when dealing with the different stresses faced by your trees and shrubs:

1. Tree branches and shrubs get weighed down by the accumulation of heavy snow and ice.

As soon as the winter is over and the warmth of spring starts to creep in, you will often find trees and shrubs in your property covered in heavy snow and ice. This can result in the branches bending downward due to the sheer weight of the snow.

What you should do:

If the snow is loose enough, you can try sweeping it upward. This is important. Always sweep upward. If you sweep from the top down, you run a risk of breaking even more branches just by doing it wrong. At this point, the branches are weakened enough as it is; don’t add more stress to them.

Here’s more:

If the snow has turned into ice and is stuck onto the branches, sweeping it is pointless. It won’t dislodge no matter what you do. You’ll only be adding more damage to the plant. The best thing to do in this situation is to wait for the snow and ice to melt naturally.

 

2. Young and recently planted trees may topple due to strong snowstorms and wind gusts.

Young, recently planted trees are the most vulnerable come winter time. Their root systems are not yet fully established underground and could easily dry out or freeze over on subzero temperatures. And because young and recently planted trees still do not have a solid foothold, a strong gust of wind could cause them to get uprooted and fall over.

What you should do:

When the subfreezing temperatures of winter begin knocking at the door, you should make sure to cover any roots that are exposed as soon as possible. By using winter mulch, you might be able to keep the root system of your trees from drying out or freezing over. Just make sure to practice proper mulch application.

Tree removal as a last resort.

Tree removal may be the only option for mature trees, or trees with trunks more than 10-12 inches in diameter, that have fallen over. Moreover, trees that are partially uprooted and have more than a third of their roots exposed are most likely beyond any help. Of course, professional help may be necessary to properly assess the condition of the tree.

 

3. Some species of trees are weak-wooded and can be easily damaged by wind and the sheer weight of snow and ice.

There are species of trees that are faster growers and have soft wood, also known as weak-wooded trees. Some examples are lacebark elm, Leyland cypress, silver maple, Bradford pear, purple robe locust, scot pine and green ash. These trees are vulnerable to damage in areas that experience extreme winters and strong storm winds.

What you should do:

The best solution for this kind of problem is to avoid planting these types of trees in areas prone to harsh winters and strong rainstorms. If you really want these trees in your property, however, make sure to plant them away from structures to minimize potential damage.

 

Additional Tips for Dealing with Winter Damage on Trees

  • Be patient with trees and shrubs covered in snow and ice. If they can’t be dislodged by sweeping, wait for the ice and snow to melt naturally.
  • Avoid shaking a tree or shrub to remove snow and ice. You’ll be causing more damage to the already stressed-out plant.
  • Once the snow and ice has melted away, take a moment to assess the condition of the tree or shrub to determine the best solution to address potential damage.
  • When pruning trees and shrubs, make sure to observe best practices to ensure the health and integrity of the plant.
  • Hire a Certified Arborist to help you assess the situation and provide effective solutions.

 

Have some ideas of your own? Comment below!

 

More info:

 

 

Stocksnap.io photo by Lukas Budimaier

 

30 Jan 2017
Heavy wet snow damaging trees

Oh Snap! Heavy Wet Snow Is Damaging My Trees… What Should I Do?

What to Do to Help Repair Damaged Trees Caused by Ice and Snow

Heavy snowstorms, strong wind gusts, and ice formations during the cold winter months can really do a number on your property. Cars parked on the streets could be covered in snow by morning. But one of the most common problems encountered by property owners during winter is the damage that is sustained by trees, shrubberies, and other plant life in the property.

When a property owner encounters snow damaged trees, his first instinct is to grab a chainsaw and cut down the branch or limb that sustained the damage. This is not always the best idea, however. After a heavy snowstorm, if you want to check what kind of damage your trees have received from the night before, there are few things you need to consider doing, for safety purposes.

 

Useful Tips for Dealing with Snow Damaged Trees after a Snowstorm

 

Tip #1: Carefully Assess the Surrounding Area

Before you start clearing fallen branches and tree limbs, make sure that you check the surrounding area first. Safety should always be your number one priority. In situations like this, broken branches and limbs may hit utility lines such as power, telephone, and cable. You need to assess the area and render it safe before doing anything else.

 

Tips #2: Check the Damaged Portion of the Tree

Don’t go near or start climbing the tree. There could be branches or limbs that are merely hanging by a thread. A slight gust of wind could easily dislodge it. The last thing you want is a broken tree branch falling on top of you.

Sometimes, trees and shrubs tend to bend under the sheer weight of ice and snow. Don’t panic. As long as the main branch and major limbs of the tree are not broken, and 50% or more of the crown is undamaged, the tree can still recover.

 

Tip #3: Keep Your Cool When Dealing with Snow Damaged Trees

Instead of rushing to remedy the broken tree branches, you need to be patient. During a snowstorm, or in the following days immediately after the storm, there’s actually very little you or anyone can do to help the tree at this point.

You can, however, start to remove any potential hazards to pedestrians, such as broken branches that you can easily reach. Using a ladder at this point can be dangerous. So avoid using ladders or climbing the tree, for that matter.

If there are broken branches high up in the tree, just put a sign under it to warn passersby. Save the more serious decisions for later. The key is to focus on tree recovery rather than chopping it down and feeding it to the wood chipper.

 

Tip #4: Carefully Remove Easy-to-Reach Broken Branches by Pruning

A few days after the snowstorm that damaged some of your trees, you can start the pruning process to remove the affected parts of the tree. However, you need to be careful not to over-prune. Most people tend to over-prune their trees to remove the damaged portions and to balance the look of the tree.

You need to remember that the goal at this point is not about appearance, the goal is to help the tree to fully recover. After the pruning process, the tree might look a bit awkward or uneven, but trees grow quick. And before you know it, new foliage will soon occupy the bare areas of the tree and it will look vibrant and healthy once again.

 

Tip #5: Don’t Hesitate to Seek Professional Help (for the tree, not you)

Getting professional help is probably the best way to deal with trees that are damaged by cold winds, snow, and ice. The term professional is not used loosely here, though. Just because you have a guy with a chainsaw, a pair of work gloves, a hardhat, and a pickup truck doesn’t mean that he’s a tree care professional.

What you want is to find a reputable Arborist or tree care company in your area. Jobs like this require up-to-date methods and expertise that not a lot of people can handle. Plus, if you blindly rely on those without proper credentials, there’s a pretty good chance you will regret your decision later on.

In the event of an accident occurring in your property, you will most likely be held liable if the company you hire has no insurance. So be careful when seeking professional help.

 

Have questions or something to add? Comment below!

 

More info:

 

Wikimedia Commons photo by Mhus at English Wikipedia [CC0], via Wikimedia Common