On my last few trips to Dubai, I have been noticing a lot of trees with lighting installed in them. Whilst these can create stunning effects at night, the correct methods of installation and maintenance are essential for the long-term well-being of the tree. We have to put the needs of the tree first – if the light effects are more important, then just don’t use a tree! Much of what I have seen – and this applies world-wide, not just in the UAE (I have seen equally bad wiring in the UK, Chicago, etc.) – is messy and very likely to cause long-term damage to the tree, if it doesn’t kill it entirely.
We have to reconcile the fact that trees expand in girth year on year (including palms, though in a different way) through what is termed secondary growth. All this growth happens in the region just under the bark in the cambial layers and produces new meristematic tissue. Damage or restrict this layer and it effects the whole health of the tree. Cable ties are like a choke collar to a tree; as it grows it gets choked. Many trees will solve this by growing over such a restriction but this can leave the wood vulnerable to infection and mechanical stress. Likewise, light mounting brackets screwed directly onto a tree become overgrown and are again a source of potential infection.
If the aim of lighting is to create an aesthetic effect, it should not be at the expense of the trees aesthetic, nor of it’s health. I can’t imagine that the lights above look very good at night, although i wasn’t there to see them on.
There is a correct way to do all this and keep the tree in good health (as far as any interference can be healthy). If you have such a project, either existing or potential, please contact me to discuss assistance in achieving best practice.