What happens to black spruce trees when they are struck by lightning?

There is a story that black spruce trees, when struck by lightning, undergo an alteration of their protein structure that makes them impervious to rot. Hence these trees can sometimes be found dead and very old but with wood that is unusually hard and showing no signs of rot. The natives apparently call them sheekos. Can you verify this phenomenon?

That’s a romantic bit of folklore. But, alas, not very accurate. The word is actually chicot, which is the French word for stump. In English, it’s a dull forestry term for a) a dead tree, or b) a dead limb of a tree that may endanger a worker, according to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. Although a lightning strike may set a tree ablaze, it doesn’t zap it with any magical anti-rot properties. Forestry workers remove dead trees and hanging limbs—known by some as widow-makers because, well, they can crash down and kill people—and cottagers would be wise to do the same. But chicots also make great bird and animal habitats, so leave them be if they don’t threaten buildings or people.