Lihtning and plant evolution

A J Brink ajbrink at
Tue Jun 13 12:03:24 EST 1995


On a recent visit to the Botswana Pans I saw what was described by the quide 
as the "largest baobab in Africa". Being visible from about 30 Km didtant, the 
huge tree was used by European explorers as a beacon to guide them accross the 
featureless pan.It was also  a popular camp-site for the"great hunters" and a 
mail drop.

As  Architect with a special  interest in human settlement formation I asked 
"Why did'nt a human settlement established itself here"?

The reply from the ranger was that local lure has it as unlucky to live near 
the baobab and, by the way, knew of three instances where buildings erected 
near baobabs were destroyed by lightning.

That such a proud landscap feature is not a target for lightning 
indicates that the baobab evolved systems to protect itself against it. What 
could it be?

Plants in habitats frequented by lightning have evolved spherical overall 
shapes, leaves that terminate in sharp points and THORNS. 

Could the High Voltage Botanists out there please comment. 



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