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Storms Take Toll on Landscape

by Don Janssen, Extension Educator

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Spring and summer storms can take their toll on landscape plants. Branches may be broken by wind and whole trees may be uprooted.

Lightning strikes to trees can be both spectacular and deadly, though the two don't necessarily go together. The effects of lightning strikes on trees are highly variable.

Sometimes lightning-struck trees literally explode, with much shattering of bark and splintering of wood. Other trees may show few if any signs of damage but die later from root injury. Some trees may die immediately; others may survive what looks like terrible damage and continue to grow.

A tree that is reduced to a pile of splintered wood is obviously no candidate for repairs and should be removed. Because the long-term survival of a lightning-struck tree isn't certain, spending much time or effort to salvage a tree that is seriously damaged may not be worth it. That time and effort might be better spent replacing the damaged tree.

A lightning-struck tree that appears normal may not survive, but time will tell. Waiting a few months to see whether it lives or dies would be advised.

Complicating any decision about taking out a damaged tree are such factors as the age and size of the tree, its location, the species and its vulnerability to damage by wind, snow and ice, and any sentimental value the tree might have.

A large, healthy tree of a desirable species that is growing well and contributing to the appearance of the landscape and the value of the property is one thing; a large, partly rotten box elder that's threatening to fall on the garage is something else entirely. One is an asset to the property; the other is a threat. Add damage from a lightning strike, and the boxelder becomes even less desirable.

If you decide to keep a damaged tree, trim off any loose bark back to healthy tissue so it can heal, prune off any broken branches, and water and fertilize the tree to help it recover. Then cross your fingers and wait.

(This resource was updated June 2003 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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