Lightning Strikes

One of our male ginkgoes was hit by lightning this spring. I noticed this sad fact after spotting small pieces of bark littering the ground around the border beneath the tree. Along the trunk of the tree are a number of splits in the bark that go straight into the ground.

Our two large male ginkgo trees grow near the corner of the home. These trees are tall but certainly not the largest trees in the yard. The sycamore and the poplar grow just yards from the ginkgoes and tower over these prehistoric trees.  It’s a mystery to me why lightning chose one of these male ginkgo trees.

We’ve heard about negative ions accumulating in storm clouds while positive ions on the ground build up, then lightning striking when the ionized paths meet. It can strike anywhere but when it strikes a tree, the sap heats to the boiling point and bark can explode from the trunk as the lightning exits the roots of the tree.

Leaves on one of the affected limbs of the ginkgo are undersized and oddly shaped but there are leaves!  That’s a very good sign. The tree does not look like it has extensive damage but time will tell. Extension agents say that it may take a year to discover the full damage to the tree so we watch and wait for the final verdict. Some things we have been advised to do now are aerate the soil around the tree, cut away any loose bark to the area of attachment to prevent rot, water well during dry periods, and fertilize in the fall to help the roots.

We are keeping our fingers crossed for this old friend.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester