I know the current Green Lantern Corps has a weakness to the color yellow, but this has been recently explained by Parallax and that the yellow element is the exact opposite of the green element (fear weakens will). However Alan Scott uses a different ring based in magic which follows different rules. It's been known that his ring doesn't work on wood or plant material, but I can't find any explanation of why.

I did research on Wikipedia which stated that his ring didn't work on wood, and gave a minor explanation as to why:

His ring could protect him against any object made of metal, but would not protect him against any wood or plant based objects.[1] This was said to be because the green flame was an incarnation of the strength of "green, growing things".[citation needed]

However this explanation doesn't appear to be backed by any evidence, and it doesn't really explain the why it wouldn't work.

Another quote from Wikipedia of his ring not working on Wood/Plant material:

Alan's ring cannot affect anything made of wood or plant matter. He can conjure a green shield to block bullets, but a wooden club will pass right through it effortlessly. Solomon Grundy, a zombie whose body is partially made from swamp matter, is highly resistant to Alan's powers.

  • 1
    This reminds me of the "#2 pencil" joke on The Big Bang Theory.
    – Oliver_C
    Jul 2, 2012 at 15:28
  • 9
    Because secretly he's a timelord with a really funky sonic screwdriver.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Aug 12, 2012 at 10:25

6 Answers 6


The rationale for why the power of the Starheart (the original source of the Golden Age Green Lantern's powers) does not work against wood has never been clearly defined in the DC Universe. Considering the number of years, Green Lantern (Alan Scott) has been around, there has been surprisingly little definition of his powers.

For many years the ring was treated mostly as a wish-fulfillment device, capable of creating whatever was needed for Alan Scott to battle the forces of evil. Being such an incredible powerful tool, I suspect writers wanted to give the tool a fairly common weakness (especially since early in Alan Scott's career, most of his foes were simply humans). His arch foe, Solomon Grundy was partially composed of plant matter. Grundy, armed with superhuman strength and durability, was a deadly enemy to Alan Scott.

If we were to consider the rationale used (by the writers) to limit the modern space-faring Green Lanterns, perhaps we could extrapolate why the Starheart was vulnerable to wood.

  • In the modern Green Lanterns, their rings were unable to affect anything that was the color yellow.
  • Early stories claimed it was due to an impurity in the Oanite crystals that comprised the ring.
  • This impurity was allowed to remain by the Guardians to ensure the Corps would remain vigilant in their duties and not become corrupted by their powers, since there was always the threat of this vulnerability.
  • The Guardians neglected to mention they had trouble with their first experimental, robotic, peace-keeping force, the Manhunters and did not want to have another agency without a means of controlling them.

This worked for the stories for decades until a series of writers decided to explore the "yellow impurity" further.

  • They decided the "yellow impurity" was secretly an entity that fed on fear, named Parallax. This was the real reasons Green Lanterns were chosen for their fearlessness.
  • The rings were a prison for this entity which would eventually escape and corrupt the greatest of their membership Hal Jordan.
  • The destruction of Parallax revealed there was an entire spectrum of rings and colors and lead to the events of The Blackest Night/Brightest Day Sagas.

Given the information here, it would not be a stretch to consider the Guardians (also known as the Malthusians), who were responsible for gathering up the magical energies of the cosmos (to impose order and rationality on the universe) to alter the nature of the resultant Starheart in a similar fashion.

  • Leaving the Starheart to float around in deep, intergalactic space might have seemed like a good idea to the Guardians at the time but they didn't count on it developing sentience and finding its way back to the galaxy.
  • But in the event that it did, they may have altered it to prevent anyone from utilizing its full power.
  • Its weakness is to organic matter with cellulose structures such as wood or plant fibers. Organic plant-like matter can be found on most living worlds, so it would be a decent fail-safe on a low-tech world, but maybe a bit harder on world's who have not taken care of their organic infrastructure.
  • The controls put on the Starheart would ensure the bearer could always be challenged and if necessary able to be defeated by the Guardians who would have the knowledge of the embedded weakness.
  • To date, with all of its incredible powers, it has never been able to throw off its vulnerability to wood.
  • I really liked your answer but I didn't know the guardians had anything to do with Alan Scott's ring or the Star Heart... Are you able to give any references that supports the guardians making the Starheart? It's always been my understanding that the two power sources where different, one being based in Magic, and the other being based on elemental energy.
    – onewho
    Jul 2, 2012 at 16:10
  • I have included the links to the Starheart's origin and the involvement of the Malthusians (the Guardians original species name). Jul 2, 2012 at 16:14
  • Thank you, your links are perfect. And while it's been stated that their isn't a clear defined reason as to the weakness your answer makes perfect sense.
    – onewho
    Jul 2, 2012 at 16:24

In Green Lantern 19, December 1991, Alan's battery sent out an astral projection that called out to Hal, John, and Guy. It led them to Alan's home. Alan was MIA at the time.

The projection instructed them to touch their rings to his battery. They were then pulled into the battery. There, they were shown the history of Alan's ring and battery. It did indeed come from Oa. The Green Lantern at the time, Yalan Gur, had no weakness to wood or the color yellow. He was a ruthless dictator that had set up his domain in China. When the Guardians found out what he was up to, they made his ring weak against wooden sticks, the simplest of weapons. Once the people found out that they could defend themselves against the Lantern, they proceeded to beat him to a bloody pulp.

The ring and battery attempted to enable an emergency evacuation, but the Lantern died before leaving Earth's atmosphere. The battery then fell back to Earth as a molten lump. The meteorite that was once a power battery would eventually be molded back into a lantern shape, and eventually come into Alan Scott's possession, but the ring it gave him still has the weakness against wood.


The reason why the ring has a weakness to wood is because when Alan Scott first had the ring he was caught off guard and attacked with a wooden club. This led him to believe that his ring had a weakness to wood and because Green Lantern weapons are powered by will power his thoughts made the weakness real. In summary the weakness was "all in his head", so to speak.

This explanation of the weakness was provided in Superman & Batman: Generations and has not been referenced in other material.

  • As Generations occupies its own parallel Earth, I would take anything established there as entirely optional to the mainstream.
    – Politank-Z
    Jun 30, 2015 at 20:28

No, his power is not directly related to the Green Lantern Corps. His power comes from the Starheart and is more magic based. Therefore its weakness are different than the rest of the Corps.

I have always believed that he was not a Lantern member; he later became an honorary member kind of like a hall of famer and that exactly how DC has him listed. This is not the same thing. I know this doesn't answer the actual question as to "why", but I hope it makes sense of the "how" and the order of things.


Alan's power originally came from the "green flame" which was the good magic of that was collected with the magic energy by the guardians when they took it upon themselves to be protectors of the universe. The good magic knew that the evil would one day free itself so broke away and became the meteor that would eventually be forged into Alan's lantern.

Because the good magic was from the power of life it could not adversely affect life directly which was represented by the green or "trees. Hense he couldn't affect wood because it was living. When he absorbed the starheart into himself after the events of Green lantern Sentinel heart of Darkness, he lost this weakness because more of his power now came from the starheart.


In the blurb that appeared at the beginning of Green Lantern stories in the Golden Age, "immunity to metals" was listed among the abilities conferred by Alan Scott's ring. Well, immunity to metals obviously is not immunity to wood, so a thug could knock him out with a wooden club. I'm guessing that he got hit by wooden objects so many times the writers started to suppose that he was specifically vulnerable to wood alone rather than to all non-metallic objects. The only thing I know about a vulnerability to plants occurred in the first Solomon Grundy story (by Alfred Bester), and was kind of a stretch, extrapolating from the wood-vulerability to explain why Alan's ring couldn't mop the floor with Grundy. The concept was sort of half-baked anyway. To me it never made sense that the ring could not affect Grundy directly, but it could still imprison him in a globe of green energy.

By the way, shifting to the modern day, as a decades-long comic reader I think the whole Green Lantern franchise was a lot stronger before they felt they had to explain WHY the GL Corps' rings would not work on yellow. All of this encrusting with layers and layers of new mythology and representatives for every color in the rainbow (and a few besides) has made everything overcomplicated and a bit silly, and pretty much ruined it for me. I wish I'd never heard of Parallax.

  • This doesn't really answer the question, especially the last paragraph.
    – Monty129
    Dec 4, 2013 at 20:19

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