Saturday, January 5, 2019

Petrified Palm - Two Views


* News about Tucson and Rock & Gem at the bottom of this post.
If someone tells you they have Petrified Palm, the first question is where from?  I don't mean Madagascar or Louisiana. I'm asking you whether it is from the trunk or roots.

The trunk slices tend to be very plain with small nearly identical markings evenly displayed. These are remnants of the rod-like structure that forms palms. I confess I tend to find petrified palm trunk a bit boring. I like rocks that talk to me and tell me their stories. This reminds me of a cat taking a nap. It's just there, not doing much of anything.
Here's my proof.

Years ago at our club show, my rock club had this massive ugly rock they were trying to sell. Nobody wanted anything to do with it. I finally made a ridiculously low offer and it was mine. I suspect because then they wouldn't have to drag it out of there. I would.


I took it to the shop where I had access to a large saw and cut it in half. It is palm. This is how the cut edge looks. It now rests in my yard under a redwood tree that keeps trying to cover it up with droppings. 

Admittedly, there are those who hold a different opinion. 

In Louisiana, they have declared petrified palm the state fossil. 

In Texas, they conveniently ignored biological reality and named "Petrified Palm Wood" the state stone in 1969.

Sorry, Texas. Palm is not really wood.


I'm paraphrasing the detailed information from Han's Paleobotany Pages. Click here. Palm does not conform to the definition of wood because wood tissue is formed by cambium. All deciduous trees have that cell layer which produces bark on the outside of the tree and wood on the inside. He gives amazing descriptions of how they are different and I suggest you use the link above if you want to know more. I'm ready to go back to lapidary.


The other source of petrified palm--and to me the most interesting--is the root structure. The first time I saw petrified palm root, the colors and movement made me think it was crazy lace; but it really wasn't. It had a riot of colors but with no discernible pattern like you find in crazy lace. What it really looked like was a bunch of colorful worms writhing around happily together. Sometimes it looked like a long tube, others looked like the end of a pipe agate, and then there was sky blue quartz filling in the spaces between. 

Depending on where you are in the world, the petrified palm roots will have colors they have absorbed from the fossilizing process and the patterns will also reflect the kind of palm it was.

For example, lapidary artist Sue Gallagher (Rockhound Dog Designs) shared this picture of palm root she has that hailed from Malaysia.  You can clearly see the root writhing effect where the two colors meet.


 Jason Brousseau (NM Stone Supply on Facebook and instagram)shared this picture of a cab he made with petrified palm root, As you can see, it makes an amazingly dramatic piece! 


Petrified palm is a chalcedony and clocks in at about 7.5 on the Mohs scale. That means it will take a fabulous shine. In fact, when I'm in Tucson this year I'm going to be looking especially for this. If you want to see a wider range of the looks of Palm Root, check out the RockhoundUSA site where the material is compared to Dali Paintings : Click Here


Make your trip to Tucson and Quartzsite this year better than ever by checking out some wonderful places to see and collect. Check out my article, Eyes on Arizona: Road Trip, in the January 2019 Rock & Gem Magazine. 

 Not a current subscriber? The magazine has recently had an editorial update and the articles and pictures are better than ever! You can subscribe at: 

 I'd love to see what lapidary creations you've crafted with Palm. Send me your images and comments to 

Until next time, I'm your Lapidary Whisperer,