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Trees and Lightning

Lightning is a powerful force in nature which can lead to devastation to whatever stands in its way. An article by Texas A&M reported that lightning detection systems in the United States detect an average of 25 million lightning strikes per year. Thousands of trees are struck by lightning every year, some initiating forest fires. A lightning strike can instantly destroy or cause significant damage to trees. In this blog, we will discuss trees that are more prone to lightning strikes and what can be done to help protect them.

Trees at Risk for Lightning Strikes


Factors that will cause a tree to be more susceptible to lightning strikes include size and location. Some tall tree species such as Sycamores, Pin Oaks, and Tulip trees are more commonly struck. The tallest tree in a grouping, a tree in an open field, by a large body of water, on a hilltop, or trees that have historic or economic value should be considered for a lightning protection system.

Lightning damage can look vastly different from tree to tree depending on the severity of the strike and the species of the tree. The picture above, with striping down the trunk of the tree, is a common sign of lightning damage. Some trees may be destroyed; blown to pieces like the picture below. Other trees that are struck by lightning may show no visible signs but enclose substantial damage to the vascular system and become a hazard to property around it. Contrarily, some trees may only have minimal damage, seal over any external or internal wounds, and continue a long, happy life. 


How can you protect your tree from lightning strikes?

Now you may be thinking about that one large tree in your yard that has sentimental value to you. What can be done to protect your beloved tree from the destruction of lightning?

There are lightning protection systems available that help mitigate the risk potential of a lightning strike to your tree. These systems consist of adding a conductor made of copper that scales down the main trunk of your tree to a ground terminal. These systems create an alternate path for the electrical charge to follow, reducing the likelihood of your tree succumbing to damage like the picture above. 


Lightning damage is more effectively prevented than repaired. These systems are just one way to care for your landscape trees. Give your arborist a call for more information about how we can protect your trees from lightning.