Issue: September 15, 2007

Lightning struck tree / Lavender for cooking

Lightning struck tree

On Labor Day weekend during a heavy rain, my very tall Austrian Pine was hit by lightening. The bolt traveled down the trunk in a narrow path that blew bark and cambium off the tree, but did not visibly damage the hard tissue of the trunk. About 2/3 of the way down the trunk, the bolt followed a horizontal branch and then to the ground through a much smaller, neighboring tree which also shows minimal damage. There was no fire, and no branches were broken. I climbed the tree to about the 25 foot level and examined the damage. The hard tissue looks fine. I'm attaching a photo.

I love this tree. Is there anything I can do to help it recover?

Tony G.


The picture you sent helps. Since the damage is only a small vertical strip, the tree's ability to transport food to the root has (probably) received only minimal damage. The pine has the ability to close wounds with pitch (serving like a scab). (Pitch is not sap, it is a specialized substance for closing wounds and preventing water loss.) Your Austrian pine tree will probably recover with minimal damage.

The damage your picture shows is fairly common in pine trees. Old scars like this are not uncommon in a forest. Such trees in the forest hit by lightning recover, only the vertical scar remains as evidence of the lightning strike. The other tree, if not a pine may actually show more damage. The sap in the tree, when heated enough, forms steam. Steam forms when lightning heats the sap causing it to expand rapidly forcing the bark and cambium away from the wood. This occurs in the outer layers of the wood (xylem), cambium, and phloem layers just under the bark. This can result in greater damage to a tree or can cause death of the tree, depending on how much of the circumference of the tree was affected. If the bark has separated from the wood for some distance horizontally from the split in the bark, greater damage could be expected. That doesn't seem to be the case in your picture of your Austrian pine, but you should look for this type of damage in the smaller tree.

Lavender for cooking

Can the flowers of 'Munstead' lavender be used in cooking? It's the only variety we've found so far which winters over here and several friends have plants and would like to use it in culinary items.

Kathleen P.-H.
Lincoln Co.


The culinary aspect is really out of my area of expertise, but since I like to eat and to use plants I've grown, I checked the internet to find the answer to your question. I found the web site which said that 'Munstead' lavender is a preferred culinary lavender.

So, based on this, it should be ok to use when cooking. You should, however, check with your county Extension Home Economist about this.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!