Caring for a scarred oak tree

The Baltimore Sun

My pin oak tree was struck by lightning last week and has long strips of outer bark completely blasted away. Can or should we do anything to cover these scars?

There have been successful bark replacements, but they must be performed immediately after the damage.

Wound dressing is not recommended because it interferes with the tree's efforts to heal the wound.

Lightning either moves in a narrow line down a tree's branches and trunk to the roots or in a wide path around the entire tree cylinder. It destroys tree tissue by creating electrical disruption and extreme heat. The full extent of damage from a lightning strike may not be evident until the next growing season.

To counteract root damage, nurture the tree by supplementing rainfall during drought with up to 1 inch of water per week.

You will know within a year or two if the tree hit was lethal. Contact a certified arborist for a free on-site evaluation of the tree's hazard potential.

This weekend I found several hundred brown, winged insects in my basement. I suspect termites. Attached are two pictures. Help!

The insects in your photos do look like termites, but there is no need to rush into a contract with a pest-control company. Our online Plant Diagnostic has comparison pictures of winged ants and termites under Pest Control.

Keep in mind that termites eat very slowly. Read our termite publication to learn of different treatment options available and for advice on preventing future infestations. Then have three or four pest-control companies come to your home so you can get their opinions, free of charge. Ask friends for recommendations. Be especially careful about accepting the companies' guarantee offers.

If you have further questions, please call us.


*Prune off dead branches as soon as you determine they are dead.

*Pinch out the flower buds of asters, mums, goldenrod and other fall bloomers to keep plants bushy and prevent early flowering.

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's help line at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at

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