Thursday, May 31, 2007

Walnut lighning rods

Ed, the site's naturalist, saw lightning strike a tree near the crypt early this spring. He went to investigate and found a walnut tree with foam down one side. The spittle was 3" to 6" wide in spots, but the bark was perfectly dry in the center of the foam. At the base of the tree, there were a couple of gallons of foam. You can still see the remnants of the strike, the light discoloration in this photo.
In April, lightning struck another walnut near the crypt. Ed found it on his morning tour of the grounds, first spotting blown-off pieces of bark and chunks of a bat box on the ground. When he looked up, he saw strips of bark hanging from the tree. The damage is still evident.

I will save the full story of the how Gene and her daughter came to be buried on the grounds in 1999, but it was Gene's wish to be buried here under her favorite tree, a chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii). It was a mature tree in the 1910's and based on a drilling some years ago, we know that the chinkapin oak is over 200 years old. It is notoriously difficult to propagate and we are on the extreme northern edge of its range. It is one of the natural and historic treasures on the site.

Chinkapin oaks grow to heights of 60' to 80'. Walnuts grow to heights of up to 150' in the best sites in Indiana. Thank goodness we have walnut lightning rods around the crypt. In this picture, the chinkapin is on the right, the first walnut tree struck is in the center with the crypt barely visible behind it, and the last one struck is on the right.

1 comment:

Kylee said...

We get lightning strikes here all the time, and it is rather frightening. Once, I was standing about 30 feet away. Literally hair-raising! I was rendered temporarily deaf and it was quite frightening, but was okay in short order.

We have many oaks and those are the ones that get it.