Petrified wood is the name given to wood that has been turned into stone (fossilized) through the process of permineralization. All of the organic matter becomes replaced by minerals, while much of the original structure such as tree rings in retained. For this to happen the wood needs to be buried in an environment both low in oxygen (preventing decomposition) and with flowing, mineral-laden water. The coloration is due to the various minerals that are present during fossilization. For example red colors are due to iron compounds, greens due to copper, etc.
About 20 million years ago a dense tropical forest, made up of Dipterocarpus (of the Magnolia family) and of palm trees, covers the Indonesian volcanic chain from Sumatra in Bali, to the west of Java. From time to time, the volcanoes became active. The force of the eruption was such that surrounding forests were uprooted. A thick layer of burning volcanic ash covered them.
The nearest trees were consumed, those insufficiently covered rotted away. But those between these two extremes benefited from ideal conditions. They became naturally sterilized by the heat which destroyed bacteria normally found in decay.
The silica found in volcanic ash became dissolved in the percolation fluids. It gradually replaced the wood, molecule after molecule, by minerals such as quartz, agate or marble, hence preserving the shape of the trees and even their cells. Petrified trees are sometimes found in streams, but the most beautiful pieces are found buried several metres deep.
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