How Long Does It Take for Wood to Petrify? | The Institute for Creation Research

 
How Long Does It Take for Wood to Petrify?

Folklore has it, as reinforced in classrooms and national parks, that petrified wood takes "millions and millions" of years to form. I've listened as many people have protested the Biblical doctrine of the young earth. "It takes too long to petrify wood. The earth must be old."

Imagine their surprise when they realize that wood can petrify quickly, and that no informed geologist would say it takes an excessively long time, certainly less time than it takes for wood to decay in a given environment.

Wood can be petrified by two basic processes, both of which usually involve burial in volcanic ash. This ash decomposes in the presence of water, enriching the groundwater with silica.

In the first type of petrification, the wood decays in a hot, silica-rich environment. As each molecule of wood decomposes and is carried away, it is replaced by a molecule of silica. Eventually the replacement is complete, with the mineral impurities in the silica being responsible for an array of beautiful colors in the final product. This type of petrified wood can be polished, and often becomes an object of incredible beauty. Once silicification is complete, there is no organic material remaining, but since on occasion the light and dark portions of the tree's growth rings may decay at different rates, hints of the tree rings may be preserved if the minerals present change over time. Many of the petrified trees found in the Petrified "Forest" of Arizona are of this type.

The other type of petrification involves the total infiltration of the porous wood by silica-rich water. The silica (or in a few cases calcite, or a combination of both) plugs up the pores, preventing complete decay. This allows individual cells to be remarkably well preserved, and in many cases the tree ring pattern can easily be seen. The petrified trees in Yellowstone Park are of this type, with tree rings readily visible.

As is now well known, wood can petrify rapidly. Several laboratory experiments have devised ways in which this can be done, mirroring natural settings. (See Sigleo, 1978 "Organic Geochemistry of Silicified Wood," Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, vol. 42, pp. 1397-1405, and Leo and Barghoorn, 1976, "Silicification of Wood," Botanical Museum Leaflets, vol. 25, no. 1, Harvard University, 47 pp.)

Wood can also be petrified in field settings. During one field experiment, researchers dangled a block of wood down inside an alkaline spring in Yellowstone Park to see what effect this hot, silica-rich environment would have. In just one year, substantial petrification had occurred. I recently read an advertisement in a magazine for real "hardwood floors." The company was petrifying wood commercially. The point is, it does not take long ages to petrify wood, it just takes the right conditions.

These conditions, with abundant hot waters (i.e., "fountains of the great deep"—Genesis 7:11) and rampant volcanism, would be met during the flood of Noah's day and the centuries following.

*Dr. John Morris is the President of ICR.

Cite this article: John D. Morris, Ph.D. 1995. How Long Does It Take for Wood to Petrify?. Acts & Facts. 24 (10).

The Latest
NEWS
Algal Microfossils Show No Evolution
Creation scientists maintain that if something is living, then it’s automatically complex. This applies to organisms ranging from a single bacterium...

CREATION PODCAST
Rapid Erosion Devastates Deep Time! | The Creation Podcast: Episode...
Erosion takes place slowly, over millions of years, right? That's what mainstream science tells us anyway. Or, does erosion happen far more...

NEWS
Flood Solves Land and Marine Mixing Near the Andes
A recent article published by Hakai Magazine claims to reveal secrets of an ancient inland sea that existed east of the Andes Mountains,1...

NEWS
T. rex Out of Nowhere
As one of the largest predators ever at 45 feet long, it’s no wonder school children are enthralled with Tyrannosaurus rex. But where did the...

NEWS
February 2024 ICR Wallpaper
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:11 NKJV) ICR February 2024 wallpaper is now available...

NEWS
Evolutionist and ICR Research Both Attempting to Explain Fossil...
Recent evolutionary research is attempting to provide an explanation for why some animals became smaller over time. Or equivalently, it is attempting...

NEWS
Animal Features Did Not Evolve
There’s no doubt that animals in God’s creation have iconic features. The question is, did these features evolve or were they created that...

CREATION PODCAST
Taking a Closer Look at Uniquely Human Eyes | The Creation Podcast:...
While we might take them for granted, our eyes are incredibly complex organs. How do they work? Is it possible for eyes to have evolved over long...

NEWS
The Conserved Complexity of Eye Cell Types
The late leading evolutionary biologist, Ernst Mayr, said the eye appeared at least 40 times “during the evolution of animal diversity.”1...

TECHNICAL PAPERS
Crassostrea Oyster Fossils Show Extreme Longevity
by Jake Hebert, Ph.D., Richard Overman, Frank J. Sherwin, D.Sc. (Hon.) In Creation Research Society Quarterly. 60 (3): 171-190. Abstract This...