It’s a common scenario that a rumble of thunder is usually accompanied by a flash of lightning. Lightning is a bright flash of electricity which is likely to occur within a single cloud, between clouds and sometimes, between clouds and the ground.

Homeowners and building owners who enjoy the glamour that trees bring to their lawn and yard should do all things possible to protect them from natural phenomena such as lightning. Valuable trees like historic and rare trees should be protected from lightning. Specimen trees should also be salvaged most particularly, those that form canopy where people and animals are liable to move under in a storm in recreational areas.

It takes years to develop and nurture a significant tree but it takes a moment for lightning to damage it. What a loss right! One of nature’s potent forces is lightning. As powerful as it is, each strike of lightning can cover a distance more than 5 miles, releases an electrical charge of 100 million Volts, and generate temperature greater than 50 thousand degrees Fahrenheit.

As mentioned earlier, lightning can occur between the cloud and the ground mostly referred to as cloud-to-ground lightning. This is where the tree(s) come into the picture! Tall trees are largely vulnerable to lightning strikes particularly, the ones growing alone in open fields without other nearby trees.

  • How does a tree respond to lightning?
  • What are the impacts of lightning on a tree?
  • What are the factors that can expose a tree to a lightning strike?
  • How can a tree be secured or protected from lightning?


How does a tree respond to lightning?

Trees contain a high amount of water (the trunk in particular) and water, on the other hand, is a good conductor of electricity even than air. So, trees are more or less a pathway for lightning bolts to reach the ground.

Collision Of fragments of ice within thundercloud results in electric charges build up (negative ion). Objects such as tall trees on the ground can build up electric charge too (positive charges). So, when electrical charges from the cloud, moving toward the ground come in contact with opposite electrical charges coming from the ground, they connect and electric current flows directly from the cloud to the surface of the earth in what we often refer to as a lightning strike or a flash.

Basically, as electric charges from lightning rise through the tree trunk, gas present in the wood is forced to expand due to boiling in the sap ( usually explosive in nature). More often than not, scraps of bark explode off of tree trunk leaving the tree wide open.


What are the impacts of lightning on a tree?

When lightning bolt strikes a tree, the tree never remains the same again. Interestingly, some trees tend to escape while others sustain an injury which might lead to their death as time goes on. Typically, one of the following happens when lightning strikes a tree:

  • No Damage: Fortunately, a tree that has been soaked on the outside by heavy downpour is liable to escape drastic damage as lightning may flash over its bark.
  • Scarred: As tree sap boils when electric charges rise through a tree trunk, it results in an explosion that blasts off barks from trunk leaving a scar behind.
  • Total Casualty: For trees with rotting or dying trunk, it’s another kettle of fish. Because moisture is likely concentrated within the core of the tree, lightning finds a suitable path by passing right through the centre of the tree. Rips the trunk apart and yanks large branches helplessly.

As a matter of fact, the ability of a tree  to survive and recover depends on certain variables such as;

  • It’s state of health before the encounter,
  • the intensity of lightening,
  • tree’s species and,
  • the amount of moisture present in the tree.


What are the factors that can expose a tree to lightning strike?

Even after homeowners must have invested their time and energy to maintain an attractive lawn and landscaping trees inclusively, natural phenomenon like lightning stands to be uncontrollable. There are several factors that make trees vulnerable to a lightning bolt, the notable ones include;

  • Height of a tree: Tall trees are the most attractive lightning target. Trees like oak, elm, pine, among others. They tend to grow tall and are often victimized by lightning.
  • Considerable size: The chances of a tree being struck by lightning is high when the circumference is large.
  • Location: The location of a tree can greatly expose it to lightning. Trees that grow in open regions, on the edge of a grove, on hilltops, near water bodies (whether natural or man-made) are prone to lightning. Also, trees closer than 25 feets from a building or facility and trees that are close to water or electrical towers are susceptible to lightning damage.


How can a tree be secured or protected from lightning?

Protecting valuable trees from lightning is wise and of cause, a huge investment. A tree can be protected by the installation of lightning protection system. The system is designed using copper wires and ground rods. Ground rods is to transmit electrical charge from lightning to the ground before it gets to a level where it can cause damage to your tree. The distinctive branching habitat of a tree will be considered when designing lightning protection system. The system does not prevent trees from being struck but rather, guarantees a harmless encounter.

So, do your tree needs help? Do you intend to minimize liability risk on golf courses, recreational areas, parks, public structures and on your property? At Leinad Tree Service, we lessen your assle and worries by tending to historic, rare and specimen trees. We are local arborist and pride ourself in giving one hundred percent tree care services satisfaction. Our door is widely opened, ready to build a relationship with you.