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Petrified Wood

Natural History

Petrified wood is formed by ancient trees which washed into a river system and were buried quickly and deeply by massive amounts of sediment and debris. Lacking oxygen to promote decomposition, the trees maintained their form for centuries.

The petrified wood on this page were photographed in Petrified Forest National Park.

As the trees lay buried, minerals such as silica dissolved from volcanic ash, absorbed into the porous wood over hundreds and thousands of years to eventually crystallize within the cellular structure, replacing the organic material as it broke down over time. This process can maintain much of the original detail of the wood such as rings, cellular structure and wood grain. When the process is complete, petrified wood is made up of almost solid quartz weighing 200 pounds per cubic foot. The different colors are produced by impurities in the quartz, such as iron, carbon, and manganese.  

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