a large lightning strike over a house with trees

What Happens When Lightning Strikes a Tree?

Everything you need to know about when lighting strikes your trees. From how it affects the tree to treatment, All Season Tree Service in Edmonton has you covered!

Tall trees are naturally occurring lightning rods. They take the brunt of the roughly two million lightning strikes that occur yearly in Canada. If you have a tall tree in your yard, or if you’re simply curious about this phenomenon, keep reading—the facts are, well, striking.

What occurs when a tree is struck by lightning?

Lightning doesn’t slice through a tree, as you might expect (or as you might see happen in a cartoon); instead, it provokes an explosion within the tree. The lightning travels down the moist tissues, just inside the bark, and its extreme temperature causes water inside the tree to turn into gas. This results in an explosion, which typically blows off a large section of bark and in some cases causes the tree to splinter.

What is the effect on the tree’s health?

50% of the time a tree struck by lightning will die immediately. And even if a tree survives the strike, there remains a good probability that it will die within a year—perhaps even in a matter of weeks—due to the stress and damage suffered. A tree is especially at risk when it has lost a significant portion of its bark, as this makes it susceptible to disease, pest problems and damage from extreme weather. And bark can’t be grafted or grown back. Sometimes even a tree with no visible outer damage will die shortly due to damage in the roots. However, when damage isn’t extensive, a tree can fully recover.

What can be done to treat trees that have been struck by lightning?

To recover from the stress caused by a lightning strike, trees need to take in a lot of nutrients. Providing a tree with generous amounts of water and with fertilizer can have a positive effect. Gentle pruning of broken branches and torn wood helps too. 

However, a treatment customized to the specific damage that has occurred is always most effective. A qualified arborist will be able to assess the damage and the tree’s overall health and suggest and/or implement appropriate treatments. In some cases, they might suggest tree removal, as unhealthy trees often are detrimental to surrounding vegetation. 

How can trees be protected from lightning strikes?

Those who wish to be proactive and to practically eliminate the possibility of lightning destroying a tree can have a lightning protection system installed. This consists of copper cables attached to the tree’s uppermost branches and grounded several metres away from the tree. The cables divert electricity away from the tree, leaving it unscathed when lightning strikes.

Tree Emergency & Storm Damage Services in the Edmonton Area

If you have a tree that has been damaged by lightning, or if you wish to protect one or more of your trees from lightning strikes or further storm damage, All Season Tree Service can help. Our experienced arborists will provide you with the best solutions and superior service.Contact us to get started today and in the meantime you can learn more about what we can do with our storm damage services and what constitutes as a tree emergency.