Can you electrocute plants?

13 March 2011


Lightning bolt in the sky



I have some rather nasty weeds in the yard and I don't want to use chemicals. Is it possible to electrocute the weeds? From John Burnap.


Sarah - It's very noble of him to not want to use chemicals. I think the important point here is, yes, you could electrocute a plant, but not in the same way that you would electrocute a human.

So the reason that we would die by being electrocuted is because it will stop the heart because the heart is full of little tiny cells, called myocytes, that have their own electrical rhythm.

But if you zap them with electricity, they start just firing madly and don't beat in rhythm.

The rhythm is led by the sino-atrial node, which keeps them beating at a regular time. The whole process keeps the blood going around your body.

But if you have a load of electricity going through you, that stops happening.

Obviously, plants don't have a heart, so they can survive.

In fact, if you get a tree that's struck by lightning - this is one of the reasons that you shouldn't stand by a tree in a lightning storm - they can actually explode!

The sap inside the cells boils with the heat of the lightning and can make part of the tree blast out.

But, depending on the extent of the damage, the tree can actually survive that and you do see "scars" down the sides of trees that are still living, and then they just sort of healed over.

So you could kill the cells by frying them with electricity so that they got so hot that they died, but you'd be more likely to accidentally kill yourself, in the process, than the plants.

So I think if you're going to heat them with so much heat that they die, you might as well use a flame thrower.

Chris - Or even a garden spade and fork, better still. That might be a better idea!


What about the black berries running amok in the Pacific NW? People don't want to use chemicals in many cases. The root system is interconnected. Wouldn't it be possible to fry the whole root system? Multi million dollar idea if that were possible. Or even just for better control of them.

If you give current to the plant it will survive but if it is heavy it cannot survive

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