Lightning or not?

At 30,000+ degrees Fahrenheit and with a charge of 10’s of millions of volts, lightning is one of Mother Nature’s most impressive features. Unfortunately, this impressive feature is also a huge threat to trees. Lightning is an electrical charge with positive ions and negative ions meeting with a huge smack of thunder. The electrical charge seeks to find the shortest path to the ground. This means that taller objects are often the conduit for this charge. Which means trees being struck by lightning is very common.

When lightning strikes a tree, the sap can boil which creates internal pressure and ends up rupturing cells inside of the wood. When this happens, it is common to see pieces of bark and even large chunks of the tree being thrown all about the lawn.

If lightning strikes a tree early in a storm the charge will flow through the sap of the tree, this is when you will see the tree blown apart. When lightning strikes a tree later in a storm the charge may flow down the water on the outside of the bark and do less damage to the tree.

Unfortunately lightning being misunderstood can become the center of a conflict when a homeowner says “lightning struck my tree! I want the insurance company to pay my claim.” Part of the misunderstanding can come when a tree that has co-dominant  stems (two stems instead of one straight stem) splits the inside of the split stem can have a black portion that appears “burnt”. This blackened area is from years of water seeping down into the junction between the two stems, not the result of burning.

[These are examples of lightning damage]

[These are NOT lightning damage]

~ by daniel on July 1, 2010.

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