Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by WonderTeam. WonderTeam Wonders, “What is petrified wood? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, WonderTeam!

BOO! Did we scare you? Okay, we’re not great at startling people. We wouldn’t want anyone to be scared in Wonderopolis, anyway! Still, some people like to be scared. They read ghost stories to get goosebumps. Sometimes, they spook themselves by visiting creepy places. They even watch scary movies to be petrified!

The word “petrified” comes from the Greek word petro, which means “rock” or “stone.” Around Halloween, you may hear people say they’re petrified. They mean they’re very scared of something. So scared that they’ve turned to stone and cannot move! If you ever find yourself petrified, you may be standing as still as a tree in a petrified forest.

Petrified wood is what scientists call the fossilized remains of trees that have turned into stone. This happens  through a process called “permineralization.” This happens over millions of years.

When trees die, sediment builds up and it buries them. Sediment first protects the wood by keeping out oxygen. This keeps the wood from decomposing. Over time, all the living materials in the wood slowly decay and are replaced with minerals.

Where do the minerals come from? Water flows through the sediment. As it does so, it deposits minerals in the wood’s cells. The wood’s plant cells decay, and a stone mold forms in their place.

Petrified wood is different than other types of fossils. Most fossils are impressions of plants or animals in rock. Petrified wood, on the other hand, is a three-dimensional fossil that keeps the original structure of the wood.

Petrified wood helps scientists study plants from millions of years ago. In fact, details like tree rings can often be seen in great detail.

Many times, petrified wood contains bold, beautiful colors. These colors come from the minerals that become part of the wood through permineralization. Minerals like manganese, iron, and copper give petrified wood some of its brightest colors.

Petrified forests can be found all over the world. Some of the most famous sites in the United States include Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, Petrified Wood Park in South Dakota, Mississippi Petrified Forest in Mississippi, and Escalante Petrified Forest State Park in Utah. Would you like to visit a petrified forest one day? Have you ever found a frightened piece of wood? We hope today‘s Wonder of the Day wasn’t too scary for you!

Standards: NGSS.LS4.A, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.3

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