Saturday afternoon--wind enough to push me around, sun to dark clouds and back to sun, temps in the low seventies. This day was a gift.
A young beech tree just up the road from home. While the swamp maples have already dropped, the beeches are now putting on a good showing.
"The Beech-tree A Non-conductor Of Lightning.—Dr.Beeton, in a letter to Dr. Mitchell of New York, dated 19th July 1824, states, that the beech-tree (that is, the broad-leaved or American variety of Fagus syhatica) is never known to be assailed by atmospheric electricity. So notorious, he says, is this fact, that, in Tenessee, it is considered almost an impossibility to be struck by lightning if protection be sought under the branches of a beech-tree. Whenever the sky puts on a threatening aspect, and the thunder begins to roll, the Indians leave their pursuit, and betake themselves to the shelter of the nearest beech-tree, till the storm pass over; observation having taught these sagacious children of nature, that, while other trees are often shivered to splinters, the electric fluid is not attracted by the beech. Should farther observation establish the fact of the non-conducting quality of the American beech, great advantage may evidently be derived from planting hedge-rows of such trees around the extensive barn-yards in which cattle are kept, and also in disposing groups and single trees in ornamental plantations in the neighbourhood of the dwelling-houses of the owners."
Nature: International Journal of Science:
"The statistics show that from 1879 to 1890 lightning had struck 56 oaks, 3 or 4 pines, 20 or 21 firs, but not a single instance of a beech tree was recorded. These facts will be seen to be of importance when it is stated that the relations between the numbers of different' kinds of trees in the region under observation were such that, out of 100 trees, about 70 were beech, 11 oaks, 13 pines, and 6 were firs. The numbers show at a glance that beech trees seemed to have been entirely free from attack, although they were twice as numerous as all the other trees put together. A practical hint can at once be deduced from this; for protection against lightning, when one is in, perhaps, a wood, can be apparently secured, provided of course there are beech trees there!"
Forest Preserve District of Cook County (Illinois):
"In a bad thunder storm, people used to run for a beech tree. There is a superstition that lightning will not strike a beech. As a matter of fact, they probably are struck as often as any other tree but without being damaged. Because of the fatty content of the wood, their smooth bark, and their many fine twigs and buds, beech trees are good conductors of electricity. Therefore a bolt of lightning is usually carried down into the ground harmlessly."
The Christian Review and Clerical Magazine, Volume 1. London, 1827. 533. Web. Google Book Search. 31 Oct 2009.
Nature: International Journal of Science. No. 1374. Volume 53. February 27, 1898. The Destruction of Trees by Lightning. 394. Web. Google Book Search. 31 Oct 2009.
"Beech Tree Lightning". Forest Preserve District of Cook County (Illinois). Nature Bulletin No. 66 May 18, 1946. http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/natbltn/001-099/nb066.htm. Web. Google Web Search. 31 Oct 2009.