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Oak Tree Hit By Lightning

Discussion in 'Homeowner Helper Forum' started by ShantelB, Feb 8, 2017.

  1. ShantelB

    ShantelB ArboristSite Lurker

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    Hi all. First post here. Last night we had a severe line of storms blow through NE FL (same line that causes tornados in New Orleans) and sadly one of my giant live oaks was hit by lightning! I want to do everything I can to save it as these 2 giant oaks were part of the reason why we bought the property.

    I will post pics but there isn't visible damage on the ground to where the roots are and just the very top layer of bark is missing where the tree meets the ground but as soon as you go up, it has lots of bark blown off (some of the pieces are over 12 feet away from the tree on the ground) and in some areas that scar is as wide as my hand so like 4". It spirals up the branch, getting skinnier as it reaches the very top of the branch in the canopy. There is a secondary scar but it only blew off the rough brown bark and left the more red and fiborous looking layer exposed but it doesn't go all the way that branch that I can see nor do I see where it went once it got to the trunk.

    This tree is considered a champion tree here in FL and is state protected. We have 2 of them. I love this tree and want to do everything I can to help it survive.

    From researching, it seems I should fertilize it and make sure the ground cover is sufficient. Right now, about 75% of the drip line is covered in leaves shed by the tree and other organic matter but not actual mulch. There is a portion of the drip line that is grass and soil. Is that ok?

    Is doing a simple granular fertilize enough for it or should I have something else done? I read an article where someone painted eucalyptus oil over the exposed areas to help prevent bugs. I know that is a big concern here. Should I find an arborist that can do that?

    I am devastated about this tree though I truly believed it saved my life. We had just come from putting the horses in the barn before the storms got here and we were walking back to the house. My husband was ahead of me when the lightning struck the tree that was only 15 feet behind me. Thankfully the lightning traveled on the side opposite of where I was as I fear if it was on the side where I was, it would have gotten to me via the ground. So even though it likely saved my life, I want to repay the favor and do everything I can to help it!

    Here are the pics of my tree

    [​IMG]

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  2. Conquistador3

    Conquistador3 Le Comte de Frou Frou

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    If the tree is on some sort of government registry, the best thing you can do is getting a certified arborist to make an assessment. And make him write down and sign whatever he says: if he refuses, just get another one.

    If this were your run of the mill tree, we could give you all sort of advice, but when Mr Government stucks his nose in, it's always best to have the paperwork in order to avoid big $$$ fines.
     
  3. ShantelB

    ShantelB ArboristSite Lurker

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    Well when I say it is protected by the state, what it means is like when we just pulled permits for a pool behind the house, the county came out and examined and measured the tree next to this one (same size almost) and said it was protected from impact, meaning any building around it couldn't impact the health of the tree. That's why we had to have our screen enclosure plans modified to change the footer to not dig down into the ground bc of it being under the drip line, etc. It is our tree and all but we just can't go and cut it down without just cause and permits from the county.

    I have sent a text to the arborist who works for the county forestry dept to see what he thinks I should do. I am just worried about it dying. If we need to hire a 3rd party arborist, we will.
     
  4. Conquistador3

    Conquistador3 Le Comte de Frou Frou

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    OK, all clear now.
    There are some things that can be done to increase the likeness of this tree surviving: the arborist will surely tell you about them, and will also tell you it's not 100% guaranteed the tree's long term survival hasn't been impacted.
    One thing I am sure he will agree with me is no fertilizer: it has done well so far without, and it can may make things actually worse, so it's better to leave things that way.
    Mulching is always a good idea for any tree both to provide slow-release organic matter and help moisture retention: personally I use home-made mulch from my shredder: it's good for the trees and the shrubs and it solves the problem of what to do with prunings, fallen leaves etc.

    Keep us posted!
     
  5. ATH

    ATH Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Initially, the only really concerning thing I see is the limb in the upper canopy (5th picture). Will probably want to get that pruned out...But shouldn't be a rush. I would however, have it done outside of oak wilt season just to be safe.

    Having said that I would be equally "unsurprised" I'd the tree dies or lives (not saying 50/50 chance, more likely to live...Just that I wouldnt be surprised if it doesn't.). Lightning is an odd thing. Sometimes it blows a tree that size into tooth picks. Another time you can't even see the strike. I have seen some where a tree just started turning brown a week after a summer storm....It cooked the cambium all the way around.

    Another example I have watched: Row of white pine trees. Tallest tree took an obvious hit. Threw wood chunks over 100'. There is a pretty big scar coming down the side. Otherwise, it looks great. Smaller tree tucked between the struck tree and it's other neighbor has turned brown over a 2-3 month period. I see nothing otherwise wrong with this tree, but based on circumstances I'm betting its roots were heavily damaged...It is not gonna make it. There is no way I could have told you that 2 weeks after the strike.

    Find a good Certified Arborist to evaluate it now and plan to have them back later in the summer. You aren't looking for a bid to prune (yet), you are looking for a consultation so expect to pay for that. You may or may not have the same company prune later... Check out treesaregood.org to find an arborist in your area.
     
    Jason Douglas likes this.
  6. Jason Douglas

    Jason Douglas ArboristSite Operative

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    Yep no fert. Mulch bed expansion for sure too. As WIDE as you can stand.

    Make sure you have an arborist well versed in consulting regarding large/old tree preservation and rehabilitation. Shouldn't be too hard as storm damaged live oaks should be common occurence in your general area.

    I would recommend finding a BCMA or RCA or a very experienced CA.
     
    ATH likes this.
  7. ShantelB

    ShantelB ArboristSite Lurker

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    Thanks all!

    I went out and inspected more. No deep cracks and looks like the top outer layer of grey, rough bark and the 2nd layer of red, fibrous tissue came off, exposing a lighter orange color wood under it. As the damage goes up the tree, it isn't as deep. There is a second scar going on another branch that is much smaller and not as deep but it seems to come from the middle fork of the tree and goes up about 10 to 15 feet up the branch and stops. The damage near the roots gets less deep as it approaches the ground and then about 3 inches before the ground, no visible damage. I know that doesnt mean it didn't damage the roots, etc but just my observation.

    After speaking to my county arborist and sending him pics, he agrees to mulch, water, no fertilizer, and keep an eye on it. He has seen a lot of live oaks get hit and says they are hardy trees and it could be ok but no way to truly know.

    I owe my life to this tree! Def could have been a very bad outcome if the lightning didnt hit it. Will keep an eye on it, get some bark mulch, and keep it watered. Arborist is delivering some sycamores to me next week so will check it out further then.

    Thanks for your input. Very appreciated!


    I have been reading about red and white oak. Does this mean it is a red oak bc of the color? Arborist said it is a live oak.
    0208171651.jpg 0208171644.jpg 0208171651.jpg

    Also here is my other big oak just bc I love these trees. It didnt get hit but has interesting scarring on the side that w different tree people were drawn too saying it looked like scoring from maybe a branch removal?
    0208171655a.jpg
     

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  8. ShantelB

    ShantelB ArboristSite Lurker

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    Oh here is that second area where it left a mark. You can see the main area in the background 0208171654a.jpg

    And the 2 together
    0208171655a_HDR.jpg
     
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  9. Del_

    Del_ 1N73LL1G3NC3 15 7H3 4B1L17Y 70 4D4P7 70 CH4NG3.

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    I suggest you not have an arborist out until next year. There is nothing you are going to get out of it that you haven't got right here on the forum. Now is the county arborist comes out for free have them come on out. By the end of this coming summer you will know a lot more about your tree and please be sure to come back here and keep us updated with new photos, if possible from exactly the same angle as those you've posted.

    I was a Certified Arborist for 18 years starting in 1991. Spending buck on a CA right now is money wasted, IMO.
     
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  10. ShantelB

    ShantelB ArboristSite Lurker

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    Thank you. Yes, it is the county arborist and its for free, but he is coming by to deliver my sycamore trees that he ordered for me (15 gallon trees for $50) so since he will be here to deliver, I am sure he will glance at it but told me the same info y'all did. I texted him at 930am before I found this forum.

    I will try to remember to come back and update!
     
  11. mohick

    mohick Banned

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    Best case is that the large side it ran will be all that dies worst is whole tree dies it might not right now but future is grim so much damage that every thing that comes along now will further add to the massive problem it has now got acres of oak timber and have never seen one survive lightening, maybe not next summer but it will die!!!!!!!
     
  12. mohick

    mohick Banned

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    After seeing the lower picture of more damage, that tree is done looks like it took a hard hit and what that does is boil the sap so the tree is done. They are weird when they do die and you cut them for firewood some limbs are hard as stone some are mushy depends on where they boiled and such. never know some good wood some not so much!!
     
  13. Woody912

    Woody912 ArboristSite Guru

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    No personal knowledge of live oaks but I have seen both white oaks and northern red oaks take very serious lightning hits that I swore would kill them and they are alive and healthy today and there are enough lightning scarred trees in our woods to believe this is not atypical. I'll defer to the arborists as to whether anything proactive can be done
     
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  14. Del_

    Del_ 1N73LL1G3NC3 15 7H3 4B1L17Y 70 4D4P7 70 CH4NG3.

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    I've seen lots of lightning struck trees that size and lots of them live and do fine.

    Only time will tell. Usually if the tree is going to die the leaves will wilt within a week or so.
     
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  15. Woody912

    Woody912 ArboristSite Guru

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    Are you really certain that you want sycamores??? My brother has about 15 of them 120' tall in his yard he would gladly give to you! lol We think they are a PITA Leaves size of dinner plates and shed limbs like crazy and frequently go hollow. They are picturesque
     
  16. ShantelB

    ShantelB ArboristSite Lurker

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    My horses girdled my big sweet gum and hoof erosion killed one of my river oaks so now they are left with one river oak for shade and they are such slow growers! I needed a fast growing tree that will provide shade in summer and drop leaves so sun will pass through in winter. The leaves wont bother me since it's in the horse pasture. I can't ride on the section that I am going to plant them as it gets wet over there so it really is just pasture, nothing more, so figured one on either end for shade where only weeds grow bc of the water.
     
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  17. ShantelB

    ShantelB ArboristSite Lurker

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    The consensus I have found with my live oak is time will tell. I have several friends in the area that have live oaks that have been hit and they are still alive 2 or 3 years later and then one has one that died for no apparent reason. One friend has one that looks like mine that killed 2 of her horses but the tree is still standing 2.5 years later. I will keep an eye on it and see what happens. Just glad it was the tree and not me that got hit since I was literally 15 feet away.
     
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  18. treeseer

    treeseer Advocatus Pro Arbora

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    "Wait and see" is not the best course. Proactivity described at the end of the first attached. Reach me through my website if you want it looked at in April; I'll be seeing my sister in daytona then.
     

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  19. TheCoreys

    TheCoreys New Member

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    Hi ShantelB - In searching google for our tree I came across your post from last Feb when your Oak Tree was hit by lightning. I'm wondering how it's doing. We have two HUGE Red and White Oaks that flank our driveway. The White Oak was hit by lightning a week ago by a microburst that knocked down 8 very old and big Oaks in our neighborhood. Ours didn't get knocked down but was definitely hit by lightning, and shows scars very similar to the pictures you posted of yours. We LOVE our Oaks and will do anything to save them.
    We're seeking information about what we can do to save it and would like to learn from your experience. I'd appreciate any information or updates you can provide that will help us save our beautiful tree.
    Thank You!!
    ~Corrie
     

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