Fossil Wood

Fossil Wood

These pieces of fossilised wood, also known as petrified wood, are of extinct relatives of Podocarpus trees, coniferous trees of the podocarp family (Podocarpaceae) that lived between ca. 65 to 250 million years ago. Species of Podocarpus are still known today and are more commonly known as the Yellowwood or Plum pine. Podocarpus are mostly large growing evergreen trees that can reach heights of up to 40 metres, towering above the forests they grow.

These fossil wood pieces formed in a slow process known as petrification, derived from the Greek word “petro”, meaning rock or stone. A process in which the organic remains of vegetation and wood, in anaerobic conditions, are replaced with minerals and turned into stone. The different colourations of the pieces are owed to the various minerals that were present in the substrate during the petrification process. Red, brown and yellow colours are due to iron oxides, pink/orange to manganese, blackish/yellow to manganese oxides and black to carbon.

The study of fossil wood is called palaeoxylology, with a “palaeoxylologist” somebody who studies fossil wood. Fossil wood of different tree families are known from periods up to 400 million years ago, fossil wood records are known from various localities across the world.

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