found bark stripped from mature oak (picture)

greendrake(SW PA)October 26, 2010

My wife and I were walking our dog in a hardwood forest and came upon a large mature oak tree that had vertical stripes about 2 or 3 inches wide running from ground level up to about 50 or 60 feet high within which the bark was gone. There is no clear indication that an animal or person did this. The surrounding ground is undisturbed (dead leaves). Anyone familiar with this?

I can't find a way to post a photo so here is a link to a group of photos that I took of the tree.

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Lightning strike?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 5:39PM
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for example:

Here is a link that might be useful: Lightning Strike Tree

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 5:42PM
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Dan Staley

Looks like lightning from here.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 6:09PM
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greendrake(SW PA)

Thanks for the replies and link.
We feel fortunate to have seen this. How common is this result of a lightning strike? I thought lighting generally blew trees apart.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 7:25PM
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I've seen the bark splits much more frequently that the tree 'exploding' - though I have seen that as well.
Have a picture, somewhere, of a water oak back on the farm that I saw take a direct strike - bark split from far up in the canopy, down to the ground, that survived, and healed up the split in the bark. Lived for 10-12 more years until it was felled as housing developments went up.

As a veterinarian, I've also seen numerous dead cows piled up all around a tree that took a direct lighting strike, dropped in their tracks, with dirt blown up from around the surface roots.
Have also seen cows that took a direct hit with no tree involved, and they'll also have linear singe marks in their haircoat, where you can trace the path of the lightning strike as it coursed through/over their body.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 10:05PM
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We had a very tall, very old blue spruce and it took numerous lighting strikes in the 25 years I have lived here. And yes, it split the wood vertically from a great height down, not just the bark. It did not kill the tree outright, but the deep damage it did managed to eventually kill it gradually and it finally became rotted and unsafe and was just removed a couple weeks ago. Amazing stuff, no?

    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 12:00AM
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Dan Staley

Out west lightning strikes are very common. When I lead hikes one of the things I look for is lightning strikes to start a conversation about the role of fire in ecosystems. Some of the conifers that grow with a twist are particularly useful for 'teachable moments'.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 9:45AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I've theorized that lightning follows the deep fissures in certain tree species. Or maybe someone told me that. Anyway, I've seen this often in oaks, especially Live Oaks, which can live on for many many more years.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 1:24PM
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greendrake(SW PA)

This tree is mostly trunk(s) with the branches and leaves way up near the top. The leaves are still green. We'll be watching to see how it fares.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 3:52PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

If the tree dies from the strike (and I'm guessing the odds are good, at least for the couple of trunks with evident damage), it may take a few years. The initial damage is just the beginning, and can go far beyond what is apparent on the surface. Pests/disease/rot move in to finish the job.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 4:36PM
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I've seen lightning-struck trees' leaves go brown and crispy almost overnight - OK, over a 2-3 day period; they're 'dead as a hammer'. But some shrug it off and other than the noticeable bark split that eventually heals in, you'd never know they were hit.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 2:47PM
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