The Q&A Archives: Pruning Lightning-Damaged Maple

Question: I have a 20 year-old red maple tree that was struck by lightning last fall. It took off half of a rather substantial limb of the tree, but it still appears to be alive and well. Should I apply a compound to the wound or cut the limb of the tree?

Answer: If the wood is splintered, the best approach would be to remove the limb. A raggedy wound won't completely heal and a falling limb at some later date might do substantial damage to property or injure someone. If only a portion of the limb is damaged, you may be able to cut away the damaged part so the tree can close and heal the wound. You may want to enlist the services of a licensed arborist to evaluate the tree. They can also do the actual work, which can be hazardous if you are untrained or poorly-equipped.

Whether you remove the entire limb or just the damaged part, don't use a wound dressing. University studies show that wound dressings do not aid in healing, and in some cases can actually interfere with the healing process. Trees have the ability to compartmentalize damaged tissue and then callous over the wound. Hope your tree doesn't suffer any long-term effects from the lightning strike!

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