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What is wrong with my maple tree? Otherwise, it looks healthy and full of leaves, no dying branches. What can I do? Can it be saved? Patsy
That is an interesting question and a great picture. If you hike through
the woods, you will often encounter similar looking trees. While I can't
be certain without inspecting the tree, it certainly looks like classic
lightning strike damage. Because trees are often the highest object
in a given area and lightning seeks the path of least resistance to
ground, trees often become lightning rods. Varying degrees of
damage can occur to the tree depending on the specific tree and
weather conditions. If the bark of a tree is wet with rain, and if the tree
has a smooth bark like a beech tree, lightning may travel down the
outside of the bark without any or much apparent damage. If the tree
has high resin content like a pine, a lightning strike may cause the
tree to explode because of the intense heat generated inside the tree.
The wettest part of the tree and an often observed situation is shown
in your picture. The tree's cambium (the outside layer under the bark) contains water and nutrients and is a good
pathway for lightning to ground. When lightning goes through that path, the water and sap become superheated and
explode the bark off the tree generally in a small channel cut down the tree (as shown in your picture). If the cambium
layer gets cut all around the tree, the tree will die. That doesn't seem to be the case looking at your picture, where
the damage appears to be up and down. Evidence of the tree heeling the wound can also be seen in your picture.
What is more uncertain is damage to the root system that is hidden from view. Sometimes it will be very obvious
because you'll see cracks in the soil and wilted plants surrounding the tree; other times you'll notice nothing at all.
It is safe to say the tree that is struck by lightning is extremely stressed and needs all the nutrients it can
get. Water it frequently especially during dry spells to help it's uptake of nutrients from the soil. Deep
root fertilization can also help and that's a service Sprigs & Twigs can provide. It is a good sign that you
are not noticing any adverse effects so far with no dying branches. The scar on the tree is permanent
however. Do not put any paint or covering on the scar because it will encourage insect damage.
We would be happy to come over and inspect the tree more closely, give us a call.
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About Linda Lillie
Linda K. Lillie is the President of Sprigs & Twigs, Inc, the premier
landscape design and maintenance, tree care, lawn care, stonework, and carpentry
service provider in southeastern Connecticut since 1997. She is a graduate of
Connecticut College in Botany, a Connecticut Master Gardener and a national
award winning landscape designer for her landscape design and landscape installation work.