Fossil forests have world-wide distribution, commonly preserving mineralized wood that displays vivid hues and complex color patterns. However, the origin of petrified color has received little scientific attention. Color of silicified wood may be influenced by the presence of relict organic matter, but the most significant contribution comes from trace metals. This study reports quantitative analysis of trace metals in 35 silicified wood samples, determined using LA-ICP-MS spectrometry. The most important of these metals is Fe, which can produce a rainbow of hues depending on its abundance and oxidation state. Cr is the dominant colorant for bright green fossil wood from Arizona, USA and Zimbabwe, Africa. Complex color patterns result from the progressive nature of the fossilization process, which causes wood to have varying degrees of permeability during successive episodes of permineralization. These processes include simple diffusion, chromatographic separation, infiltration of groundwater along fractures and void spaces, and oxidation/reduction.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited