The LW Treecare Blog

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Lightning and trees

Lightning usually runs along the inner bark of the tree down to the ground, causing the outer bark to expand and blow away in strips. Sometimes, you’ll find that a tree ‘jumps’ when struck by lightning; this occurs when the trunk or several branches split off and fall to the ground due to vehement expansion. In other words, unless you want to deal with the entire weight of an exploding tree, don’t stand under one during a lightning storm!

If it’s raining and the outside of the tree is soaked with water, as is usually the case during a thunderstorm, the lightning may cause relatively little damage to the tree. This is because, in this case, the electricity would be conducted through the outer soaked layer of the tree, rather than affecting the inner bark. It may seem natural for a tree to burn when struck by lightning, but whether it does depends on a variety of factors, such as the moisture content of the bark, foliage on the branches and which part of the tree lightning strikes. When a tree catches fire, it may burn to the ground or just remain partially damaged.

Surprisingly, a tree that has been struck by lightning won’t necessarily die as a direct result of the current; it could live for a while, even with extensive injuries. However, trees that have been damaged by lightning might die from secondary causes, such as insect infestation or decay. They might undergo all sorts of transformations that make the bark inherently weak, so remember, if you see a tree that has been struck by lightning, stay away from them… you never know when they may fall!

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