Tree Struck By Lightning? Broken, Damage, How To Save, Limb Removal

Person in a storm looking at a tree struck by lightning and the tree lightning strike damage wondering if a lightning struck tree can be saved, and what does a tree struck by lightning look like?

If you aren’t sure about what to do if your tree struck by lightning looks dangerous, you’re not alone.

Hopefully, it’ll never happen, but if it does, there are many considerations. Can a lightning damaged tree be saved? Is the tree a danger to its surroundings? How can you determine the level of damage?

According to the Weather Network, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute reports that the tropics such as Hawaii and other areas see over 800 million trees damaged or killed by lightning.1

This guide explains how to tell is a tree was hit and what you need to do if your tree struck by lightning is broken, damaged or dangerous, and how limb removal can sometimes save the tree, and your property from damage.

Tree Struck by Lightning? Can a Tree Survive a Lightning Strike?

Your tree surviving a lightning strike is completely possible, it all depends on the extent of the damage.

A tree struck by lightning can be random. But if your tree is healthy, your Oak tree or any tall tree can bounce back stronger.

If your tree was determined to have been broken or damaged because of this “Act of God,” you may consider some prevention possibilities or moving the tree.

Close up of a lightning struck tree with damaged trunk.

(Image: Forest and Kim Starr8)

Moving your tree when it’s strong and ready might seem like an excessive act, but lightning does strike twice in the same location, as reported by

If there is no electrical conductor that the flash in the sky can connect with, your Pine or Tulip Poplar Tree can indeed survive.

And if the natural phenomenon did not cause deep wounds or root system issues, your tree family may continue to prosper.

How To Save a Tree Struck by Lightning

Tending to a lightning damage tree should be delayed a bit after the storm, whether a few minutes to a couple of hours to ensure your safety.

How to save a tree struck by lightning starts with watering the trees within 24 hours. A tree struck by lightning that is still standing is under severe stress and lacks moisture, so watering it is crucial.

Tree doctors can evaluate and answer the “tree broke in half, can it be saved” question.

The cost of arborist may be worth it when you want to get the proper recommendations.

Tree doctors will advise on watering, pruning, fertilizing regimen, and making sure your trees receive the nutrients it needs in a lightning strike.

After doing your part of pruning broken branches, leaves, or if the tree is determined to be dead, call on your local city or county department that provides free tree removal.

Lightning Struck Tree: Home Insurance Claims

Will my homeowners insurance cover preventative tree removal?” is a good question. If you have an “Act of God” insurance included in your policy or an insurance rider, tree removal may be included after a tree is struck by lightning.

However, instead of wondering who is responsible for fallen tree removal?

Check your policy today to ensure you and your trees are covered for preferably eco-friendly tree removal methods.

Limb Removal and Tree Removal Cost Calculator

Large limb removals after being struck by lightning might be 100% your responsibility.

If your home insurance policy doesn’t cover an “Act of God” claim, you still have options.

Photo of an arborist cutting down a pine tree.

(Image: TS Eriksson9)

If you’re wondering how to negotiate tree removal, a tree removal cost calculator can help.

If the tree is especially large or poses a danger to buildings or other structures, crane assisted tree removal may be necessary.

This will usually cost more than removing a tree that is smaller.

You can figure the estimated cost of removing a tree with a crane using this calculator.

How To Tell if a Tree Was Struck by Lightning After a Rainstorm

Due to the amazing strength of an Oak Tree or any tall tree, even when struck by lightning, they are often found still standing.

So, how to tell if a tree was struck by lightning after a rainstorm is important because you have to move fast when it’s safe to tend to your tree’s needs.

Several research reports have confirmed what you may have already determined. Climate change and areas with warmer weather create more opportunities for lightning.

As a result, a tree struck by lightning is almost inevitable.

If it seems the summers are hotter with increased tropical lightning, maybe you’re right. The University of California, Berkeley reports that strikes can increase by 12% when temperature increase by 1 degree Celsius.5

By 2100, this 1 degree Celsius warmer weather will result in 50% more lightning strikes in areas such as Kansas and other Midwest cities. Tampa Bay, Florida, known as part of the “Lightning Alley,” is expected to see more lightning as well.

If you’re unsure if your tree was struck by lightning because there are no cracks or damaged branches, call an arborist. Tree doctors can evaluate your trees for lightning damage.

Graphics with illustration and text indicating how to tell if a tree was struck by lightning, such as: dried and dead foliage, tree top damage, fractured branches, spiral shape on the bark, scorch marks, cracks and strip of bark, and ground scarring.

How to tell if a tree was struck by lightning may have the following lightning damage:

  • Cracks in the back
  • A spiral shape on the bark
  • Wilted or burned leaves

If lightning damage is not visible to the eye, call an arborist or a tree doctor to evaluate your tree struck by lightning.

What Does a Tree Struck by Lightning Look Like?

What does a tree struck by lightning look like? Remember, where your tree is located matters. If your tree is burned with missing tree limbs, there is obvious damage to your tree.

Why Does Lightning Strike Trees? Tree Lightning Strike and the Types of Trees Most Vulnerable

Trees hit by lightning usually have rougher bark compared to a Beech Tree with smooth bark.

But tall trees and especially trees standing alone, are vulnerable during a rainstorm.

A graphic that shows the common locations where lightning strikes trees such as isolated fields or land, mountains and tall hills, by lakes, rivers and ponds, urban and city aread with power lines, near homes and commercial buildings.

The location of your tallest trees matters. Trees struck by lightning are often in the following areas:

  • Isolated fields or land
  • Mountains and tall hills
  • Urban and city areas with power lines
  • By lakes, rivers, and ponds
  • Near homes and commercial buildings

Although there is no set solution to avoid when trees are struck by lightning, there are some common ways to assess the broken limbs and the damage to the bark and leaves.

Why lightning strikes trees is still under thorough scientific investigation. However, the electrical charge coming from the sky is looking to connect with anything that conducts electricity in its path.

Aside from location, trees that are most likely to get struck by lightning are not only robust tall trees but also decaying and unhealthy trees.

But what attracts lightning?

According to Wikipedia, trees with high water content are vulnerable to lightning. Rotting trees with decaying trunks are also in danger of being struck by lightning and may explode as a result.2

The following trees attract lightning and are more prone to being struck by lightning:

Ash Tree

Not only is the Ash tree facing extinction because of an invasive beetle, but it’s also very vulnerable to being struck by lightning.

The Ash Tree, which has an oval canopy and height of as tall as 120 feet, is often found on riverbanks and near other bodies of water.

Trees struck by lightning, such as Ash Trees, are more vulnerable than many other types of trees due to their usual location and height.

Elm Tree

The Elm Tree can grow as tall as 100 feet in your own backyard oasis. You may have planted several Elm Trees because of their beauty or their resistance to decay because of their high moisture intake.

Wide shot of forest edge with dark clouds in the background showing lightning as it strikes among the trees.

(Image: Albrecht Fietz7)

The flash of lightning from the sky can easily bounce off its usual surrounding area of swamps, lakes, and its own moisture. According to Purdue University, the Elm Tree Wood is quite strong, with 12% moisture for 36 pounds per cubic foot.3

Maple Tree

The Maple Tree is a favorite shading tree. With the Maple Tree’s large canopy, it is prone to be one of the common trees struck by lightning.

The Maple Tree can rise as tall as 148 feet and is no stranger to lightning bolts from the sky.

Oak Tree

Following several studies, institutions such as Clemson University have confirmed that the Oak Tree is one of the most vulnerable trees struck by lightning.4

Some Oak Tree variants can be as tall as 600 feet worldwide. However, in the United States, an Oak Tree can be as tall as 150 feet.

The Oak Tree is also known to have very high moisture content not only in its bark but also in the leaves.

Poplar Tree

The Poplar Tree can get as tall as 130 feet and can easily be struck by lightning. This tall tree is a shade tree that is usually the tallest of the trees it shares space with.

If you think your tree has been struck by lightning and you aren’t sure about how extensive the damage is, the best thing to do is to reach out to some local tree doctors who can correctly gauge the options of saving or removing the tree.

Your local college extension may have some local tree removal recommendations specifically for a tree struck by lightning.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tree Struck by Lightning

Can My Tree Die If It’s Struck by Lightning During a Rainstorm?

It’s possible for trees to die right away when hit by high intensity lightning during a rainstorm. However, if the tree survives and shows lightning strike wounds, they may act as an entryway for diseases and insects which may cause the eventual death of the tree.

Can I Protect My Tree From Being Struck by Lightning After a Rainstorm?

There is no guarantee that your tree will not be struck by lightning. But wrapping copper cables around your tree as a lightning protection system can divert lightning away from your tree.

What If My Tree Shows No Signs of Lightning Damage?

Water your tree off and have a fertilizing regimen shortly after lightning strikes the area. After a few months, your tree will either show continued growth or no growth, indicating damage or death.

Do I Have To Remove a Tree That Did Not Survive a Lightning Strike?

Yes. It would be hazardous to you, your family, animals, and any surrounding trees if not removed.


1Santa Maria, Cheryl. (2020, July 28)The Weather Network. New Study Finds Lightning Destroys 832 Million Trees Each Year In Tropics Alone. Retrieved on July 06, 2023, from <>

2Wikipedia. (2022, May 26) Exploding Tree. Retrieved on July 07, 2023, from <>

3Purdue University. (n.D.) Hardwood Lumber and Veener Series-Elm Tree. Retrieved July 08, 2023, from <>

4Polomski, Robert F. (2022, June 30) Clemson University. Lightning and Trees. Retrieved on July 11, 2023. <>

5University of California, Berkeley. (n.D.) Lightning Strikes Will Increase Due to Climate Change. Retrieved on July 09, 2023, from <>

6Moore, Gregory. (2022, February 04) What Does Lightning Actually Do To A Tree? Retrieved on July 09, 2023, from <>

7Photo by Albrecht Fietz. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

8Eucalyptus struck by lightning Photo by Forest and Kim Starr / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <>

9Arborist takes down a pine tree Photo by TS Eriksson / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported. Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>