Petrified Wood History and Information

Petrified Wood 101–What is it?

How in the world does petrified wood last so long? It’s made of minerals, of course! Petrified wood is actually not wood at all, but a fossilized form that took on the shape of its former shell.

Rockology would like to deliver the inside scoop into Petrified Wood. What makes Petrified Wood slabs such a popular collector’s item for rockhounds and geologists? It’s certainly a rarity at its finest.

Before this wood has a chance to decay, it must be sealed from the elements to heed oxygen from causing decomposition. In the process, the minerals contained within the soil replace the water within the organic cells—and there you have it, Petrified Wood.

Sometimes it can look so much like real wood that those who pick up a specimen are surprised by the weight of the thing in hand.

Petrified Wood Facts:

  • It was once alive!
  • It’s fossilized
  • It contains minerals
  • Comes in various colors
  • Glimmers in the light
  • Most petrified wood is millions of years old

A collection of these prized specimens can be found in a “petrified forest”. Petrified Wood gets its name from the Greek word “petro” that completes the phrase “wood turned to stone”—literally! Because Petrified Wood is just that—a stone. When organic material is overrun with minerals such as quartz or silicate, the preservation of the fossil is made possible.

What is Petrified Wood?

Unlike most fossils—which are impressions or compressions—Petrified Wood can be found in its own category as a three-dimensional representation of the thing in which created it.

What becomes so spectacular about this fact is that Petrified Wood, thus becomes a way to study the past with a perfect cellular model—or almost perfect. Petrified Wood pieces preserve the original shape and cellular structure of a tree down to the microscopic level, so that the rings of ancient trees can be studied by geologists.


Petrification occurs when wood or organic material is trapped inside sediment, where it is shielded from the elements including oxygen—which is essential to its aerobic decomposition. These mineral rich waters fill the sediment and deposits within the cells of organic life.

The lignin and cellulose of the organic life decays to form the stone mold, but it must become petrified before it fully decomposes to capture the original cellular and stem structures. Most petrification comes from Quartz Chalcedony mineralization, but other impurities enter the cells to give the specimen rich colorization, such as copper, iron and manganese.

What gives Petrified Wood color?

  • Colorless—Pure Quartz Crystals
  • Black—Carbon
  • Green/Blue—Cobalt, Chromium, Copper
  • Red, Brown, Yellow—Iron Oxides
  • Pink/Orange—Manganese
  • Blackish/Yellow—Manganese Oxides
  • Some of the rarest specimens contain vibrant shades of rustic reds and forest greens.

How old is Petrified Wood?

The process can occur under a thousand years, but most petrified wood is millions of years old!

One of the most famous petrified forests in the United States—Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona—holds the remnants of an ancient forest that stood over 225 million years ago!

Storms and flooding filled the once tropical lowlands of the area with sediment, mud and mineral rich water to cover the dense thick of trees. These ancient trees stood 200 feet tall and 9 feet in diameter.

After the forest was covered, nearby volcanic eruptions scattered ash and high silica debris across the land. Much like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius preserved a city beneath the soil for thousands of years—the addition of the ash smothered the organic material and left it to petrification.

petrified wood


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Benefits and Uses

Petrified Wood is a favorite amongst metaphysicians for its good vibes and physical benefits. It is named a “worry stone” that helps us to not sweat the small stuff.

Here are just some of the benefits:

  • Grounding Energies
  • Protective Qualities
  • Calms Nerves
  • Stabilizes Anxiety and Fear
  • Provides Balance in Meditation

Petrified Wood is great for anyone who lives in a city and would like to feel a more immediate connection to nature and the Earth. It also corresponds to the root and third-eye chakras.


You might want to consider adding Petrified Wood to your collection—after all, there are only so many trees turned to beautiful stone specimens! They can be found as stand alone pieces cut into Petrified Wood spheres, eggs and hearts, Petrified Wood slabs, and Petrified Wood Bookends.


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Do you have questions about rocks? Download the free rock collecting guide Rocks 101.


cc: Park Ranger


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