Moonlighting (also called tree lighting) is a technique where the light is placed near the top of the tree and shines down.  It’s great for getting some soft general area illumination without the glaring effect of flood lighting.  It is best done in trees that are at least 20 to 30 feet tall and in trees that keep their leaves year round.  Here in Dallas, the best type of tree to do this in is the Live Oak but it can also be done in any large tree, including Red Oaks, Burr Oaks and Pecans and Elms.

The picture below is of a Burr Oak in a back yard.  It’s common in the Dallas area to do this type of lighting using a type of bulb called mercury vapor.  It creates a blueish green type of light that is soft and creates similar patterns on the ground.  However, the Energy Act of 2005 stopped the manufacture and import of mercury vapor ballasts (electronics required to ignite the mercury vapor bulbs) starting in January of 2008.  There are alternatives but they all use a fair amount of electricity (typical mercury vapor bulbs are 100 watts).

This tree was lit using a ceramic metal halide bulb (CMH) from Outdoor Lighting Perspectives (  It’s only 39 watts and puts out more lumens than a 100 watt mercury vapor bulb.  It also produces a soft white color light so the landscape elements are illuminated in their more natural color, rather than the blue/green tint from mercury vapor.  All in all, a pretty cool effect!