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Exploding Trees: Fact or Myth?

Fact or Myth: Do Trees Explode?

Exploding Trees Myth

Photo by [bhjoco] morgueFile

Question: Do trees explode under certain conditions?

There are four conditions that could cause a tree to explode:

Condition 1: Maple trees have been known to explode when the temperatures drops below freezing. The sap inside of the tree freezes. The resulting explosion can sound like a boom or a gunshot.

To reduce the risk of Maple trees exploding, caretakers take a drill and drill a hole into the tree, to alleviate the pressure inside of the tree.

Trivia Fact: Sioux and Cree Native Americans would hear the boom of violatile freezing trees regularly around the first moon of the new year. They called it the “moon of the cold exploding trees.”

Fact #2: Scottish surgeon John Hunter (1728-1793), a renowned scientist of his day, observed tree sap freezing when it reaches 17 degrees below its nominal freezing point. After this point, a tree is at risk of exploding.

Condition 2: Trees that are struck by lightning explode.

When lightning strikes a tree, the liquid inside of the tree turns into gas instantly, exploding instantaneously.

Safety issue: This is why it is not safe to be under trees when it is lightning outside.

Condition 3: Eucalyptus trees in Australia are known to explode during brush fires.

Condition 4: indicates that trees can explode from within after becoming over-saturated by contaminated water, particularly toxic metals such as copper oxide.

Mythbusters Episode: Liquid Nitrogen on Christmas Tree goes Kaboom!

In 2009, the Mythbusters examine a story in episode 129 about a leak in a liquid nitrogen processing plant around Christmas. A pipe carrying liquid nitrogen burst, and liquid nitrogen leaked into the office and dripped down onto the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree explodes, shooting splinters in all directions.

The theory is that the liquid nitrogen caused the water inside of the tree to freeze and then expand. In theory, it explodes from the pressure built up inside the tree.

To test this myth, the mythbusters dump hundreds of gallons of liquid nitrogen over a Christmas tree at a blast site. Nothing happened.

Just to be sure, they coated a second Christmas tree with liquid nitrogen and shot it with buckshot. Still nothing. This myth turned out to be false.

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