What is Petrified Wood
Petrified wood is the name given to a special type of fossilized remains of terrestrial vegetation. It is the result of a tree or tree-like plants having completely transitioned to stone by the process of permineralization.
Elements such as manganese, iron, and copper in the water/mud during the petrification process give petrified wood a variety of color ranges.
Pure quartz crystals are colorless, but when contaminants are added to the process the crystals take on a yellow, red, or another tint.
Following is a list of contaminating elements and related color hues:
- carbon – black
- chromium – green/blue
- cobalt – green/blue
- copper – green/blue
- iron oxides – red, brown, and yellow
- manganese – pink/orange
- manganese oxides – blackish/yellow
- silicon dioxide – clear/white/grey
Petrified wood can preserve the original structure of the stem in all its detail, down to the microscopic level.
Structures such as tree rings and the various tissues are often observed features.
Below is a transcription of the above sign found at the Valley of Fire Visitor Center.
Petrified wood formed here when Mesozoic Era trees washed down from distant highlands to the lowlands of the Valley of Fire.
They became buried in mud and sand and gradually changed to stone as minerals replaced the decaying wood cells.
Even under a microscope, petrified wood shows every detail of the original plant and structure.
Trees that became fossilized (or “petrified,” meaning turned into rocks) trees once were living in forests far to the east of the park.
Please do not remove fossil wood you may discover.
Help us preserve the natural treasures of the Valley of Fire.
Time Period: Mesozoic Era
Composition: Plant cells replaced by minerals
Location: Two places in the Valley of Fire, both close to the main park road.
What is Petrified Wood
The above exhibit is found at the Valley of Fire Visitors Center at the front of the building as you enter.
Below is the transcription of the placard:
This log is evidence of ancient forests that existed in this area about 225 million years ago.
The log was covered by clay and silt in a shallow sea.
Over the millions of years, the actual wood was replaced by silica, eventually becoming a solid mass of in the exact form of the original wood.
Large and small pieces of petrified wood may be seen in many places throughout the Valley of Fire.