Lightning and Trees: What Happens to a Tree After Getting Struck by Lightning? (And What to Do)
Lightning storms can be scary, especially if you’re a tree. Since trees are often the highest point in an area, they are at greater risk of lightning strikes. So, what happens to a tree after getting struck by lightning, and what can you do to protect your trees? The Monster Tree Service arborists share four lightning safety tips to keep you and your trees protected from the next strike.
What Happens to a Tree After a Lightning Strike?
Some people assume that because trees are wood, they are immune to the effects of a lightning strike. However, trees are actually conductors of electricity because of the large amount of water and sap inside them. Lightning strikes can highly impact a tree's structure and biological functions — sometimes even killing the tree if lightning passes completely through it. When lightning strikes a tree, a few different results can occur.
Lightning strikes can cause water and sap to “boil,” creating steam and pressure that blows bark off the tree.
Lightning strikes can result in lightning scars or open wounds susceptible to pest infestations and disease.
Lightning strikes can leave no external damage to the tree but damage the root system, causing the tree to die over time.
Lightning strikes can break branches or cause the entire tree to split and tumble.
Top 4 Lightning Safety Tips for You and Your Trees
Keep your family safe and plan ahead with these four lightning safety tips to avoid damage to your trees and property.
1. Lightning Proof Your Tree
The best way to protect trees from lightning is to lightning-proof them before the next storm. Tree lightning protection systems work by connecting a lightning rod to the top of the tree that diverts the strike to a grounding system that absorbs the electric shock. Lightning rods don’t attract lightning but rather redirect it from causing damage to the tree itself. Each tree in your yard will need its own lightning protection system to keep it safe.
2. Keep Your Tree Healthy
Oversized, diseased, or broken tree branches are especially susceptible to risk during a lightning storm. With annual trimming and pruning, your tree will be better able to weather the storm ahead and recover from any harm. Plus, properly pruned trees are less likely to cause damage to your property with downed branches. If your tree does get struck by lightning, consult a professional arborist for plant health care services. An arborist will be able to examine the tree and come up with a plan for recovery or removal.
3. Landscape Strategically
If you live in an area susceptible to lightning storms, landscape your yard strategically to avoid the risk of downed tree damage when lightning strikes. Large old trees add beauty and value to your property, but they can also threaten the safety of your home and family. Larger trees should be planted 15 to 20 feet away from your home and not interfere with power lines or pose a risk to neighboring properties. In addition, trees such as elms, poplars, and silver maples are more brittle and prone to splitting — making them a dangerous addition to your yard.
4. Hire Licensed Arborists for Professional Tree Removal
In some cases, the best thing to do after lightning strikes your tree is to remove it. Enlist the help of a professional arborist to evaluate the health and condition of your tree and aid in tree removal if needed. In the case of downed trees posing a risk to the safety of your family and property, our locally owned Monster Tree Service locations offer emergency tree removal and storm damage cleanup services to help restore your yard quickly and prevent the risk of further damage.