Mt Beckworth tree scarred by lightning

IMPACT: Shards of a Mt Beckworth tree that was struck by lightning recently were found up to 74 metres away. Branches of the long-leaved box didn't just fall where they were struck, but were blasted away by the force.

IMPACT: Shards of a Mt Beckworth tree that was struck by lightning recently were found up to 74 metres away. Branches of the long-leaved box didn't just fall where they were struck, but were blasted away by the force.

With the lower two metres of its trunk smashed, split and broken, its roots damaged and shattered wooden debris strewn in all directions, a tree on the northern side of Mt Beckworth clearly showed the effects of being struck by recent lightning.

Growing on a farming property, the tree was a long-leaved box, sometimes locally known as apple jack.

This tree had a trunk diameter of 70 or more centimetres. Now split and shattered, the trunk looks likely to collapse with the next strong winds.

Light can be seen through splits and holes in several places.

Branches had not simply fallen when they were struck – they were blasted away by the force.

Some of these shredded, shattered and twisted pieces had been flung spear-like into the ground and buried several centimetres.

Numerous small shards littered the paddock.

The furthest were found 50 metres to the east and more than 74 metres to the north. A few of these far-flung shattered pieces were 20cm thick and a metre long.

Much of the trunk’s thick outer bark was blown off with the force, leaving the remaining trunk smooth – as though it was skun.

When a tree is struck by lightning the energy is discharged through the tree, turning the sap into steam and causing the bark to split.

A tree’s heartwood is mostly lifeless wood; the life is in a thin layer just under the bark.

Lightning causes the sap to be superheated and it explodes outwards. This tree had been shattered by terrible force, but there was no sign of heat or scorching. Nothing was blackened, lightweight or dry.

WHAT’S MISSING?

A winter survey of plants and birds at a Buninyong property revealed 31 native plant species, 46 exotic plant species and 19 birds.

How many more could have been added if the survey had been completed in November? 

The answer for this particular property is that at least 16 native plants, 15 exotics and 20 more birds could be added in a late spring or early summer survey.

Native plants missed in winter would include milkmaids, onion orchids, sun orchids, chocolate lilies, willow herbs, club sedges, yellow stars, yellow rush lily, wallaby grasses and bluebells. A dozen or more exotic species are not visible or identifiable now, including at least seven annual grasses.

Some of the 20 expected birds would be spring and summer visitors such as cuckoos, rufous whistler, grey fantail and welcome swallow. Other birds would be added simply as a result of a couple more visits at any time of the year.