This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
B., Hartford, Conn., writes: Noting that you take an interest in the question of special trees being specially attractive to lightning, I enclose a slip and ask your opinion as to whether there is any evidence that Poplar trees are more attractive than others:
"An eminent scientific authority in Europe states that a fresh proof is afforded that the upper part of trees, especially of Poplars, is an excellent conductor of electricity (which only rends or shatters the wood when it finds a passage in the trunk), in an account of the effects of lightning on an Aspen situated in a wood near the chateau of Crans, on the shore of the lake of Geneva. The lightning chooses by preference the Poplar as a conductor to reach the ground, and the case under consideration is a striking one, as the tree was surrounded by other kinds, particularly Firs, taller than it. Two great branches, of eighteen and twenty inches diameter, which surmounted it, were struck by the lightning, and led it to the ground without having received the least apparent injury, while the trunk below them was absolutely shattered. Other recent observations prove the preference of lightning for trees situated near the streams or reservoirs of water, so that the best conductor for a house is a lofty tree, a Poplar especially, situated between the house and well, a pond or a neighboring stream".
The only evidence we have is the fact that a Tulip "Poplar" on the Germantown railroad near Philadelphia, was three times stricken by lightning within fifteen years. It is true the Liriodendron or Tulip "Poplar" is not a Poplar, but then electricity is not to be supposed to know much about botany. There are plenty of real Poplars in the vicinity, but this Tulip "Poplar" seems to have been always singled out in preference, till the last strike killed it.