I have a very old Pecan tree on rural property in Austin county between Sealy and Brenham. We are planning on building a house near this tree next spring. The tree was hit by lightning almost a year ago last summer. You can see how the bolt followed the trunk down and into an exposed root. The tree has plenty of leaves and looks good, however I need an expert's opinion to tell me what the chances are of it living so I can proceed with the location of our house. The tree is very old and large, so I want to know my options (if any) besides cutting it down.
Pecans are very susceptible to lightning strikes. In fact one of Bartlett's clients has a Pecan tree that was struck three times over the course of about 20 years. Lightning strikes rarely kill Pecans, but the wounds do expose the wood to decay pathogens. This will have a greater impact on structure than health, causing the tree to be much more prone to storm damage as the years pass. So, in short, while the tree may live, it will likely become structurally weaker over time, and I would consider carefully the prudence of building too close. Once you undertake any construction activities within the drip line of the tree, including parking, driving a bobcat, trenching, grading, etc., then you are really putting the tree at risk. Couple that with the increased risk of decay following the lightning strike, and I would give the tree a wide berth, and build at least 1 to 1 1/2 times the distance from the trunk to the drip line. One final thought: if this is really a nice specimen, and you're planning on building fairly close to it, you might consider installing a lightning protection system in the tree.
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