Today @ Colorado State has been replaced by SOURCE. This site exists as an archive of Today @ Colorado State stories between January 1, 2009 and September 8, 2014.

Environment / Sustainability

Trial Garden on the mend following lightning strike

July 12, 2013
By Cassa Niedringhaus

One flash was all it took for lightning to demolish a large honey locust in CSU's Annual Flower Trial Garden, damaging hundreds of flowers and littering the grounds with limbs from the once-majestic tree.

A century-old honey locust was left in splinters by lighting during a July 5 storm.The century-old tree stood more than 70 feet tall but was no match for the lightning bolt, which was part of a vigorous afternoon storm July 5 that drenched campus and the surrounding area. Large sections of the tree flattened flowers, but thankfully no one was hurt.

James E. Klett, professor of landscape horticulture and supervisor of the Trial Garden, said because of the heavy rain at the time of the lightning strike, no visitors were in the garden. However, five to 10 percent of the flower beds were directly impacted by the tree fall, and the strike broke the irrigation system that waters the flowers.

Thankfully, no injuries

Klett was in the Plant Environmental Research Center (PERC) in the middle of campus when he heard the storm hit and was thankful there were no injuries at the gardens, which attract thousands of visitors annually.

“I was hoping no one got hurt or was near the tree when the storm hit, and glad it was raining hard so  no one was out in the garden,” Klett said.

The tree was removed the following day to ensure visitor safety.

 “(Fort Collins-based) Fine Tree Service was called in on Saturday with their big equipment, including a crane, to help with removal of the tree and to do as little damage to flower beds as possible,” Klett said.

Trial Garden hugely popular

The Trial Garden was established “to allow students, researchers, industry representatives, homeowners and extension personnel to learn, teach and evaluate through horticultural research and demonstration projects conducted in the unique environmental conditions,” according to the Trial Garden website.

Each year the flowers are judged in a “Best of Show” contest, which should not be significantly affected this year despite the damage done by the falling tree. Klett said the garden still has some of each plant variety injured by the tree, although it will take some time for the plants to recover.

“It will take several weeks for the plants to respond back that were affected,” Klett said. “We are also waiting on a new irrigation controller and have a loner now.”

Moving forward

Klett said there is no plan to replace the tree, but is considering planting smaller ornamental trees in the area that will not block the sun from the flowers.

Despite the initial damage, Klett said he is grateful for such a quick response that had the tree removed less than 24 hours after the lightning strike.

“We are very fortunate that no one got hurt and that we have great arborists on campus and in Fort Collins that were able to respond quickly to take care of this disaster,” Klett said.