16 August 2022
Have you ever seen the Devil’s Tower in northeastern Wyoming?
I had no idea it existed until Allison Cusick displayed a photo and jokingly described it as the world’s largest petrified tree during his presentation on Botanical Superlatives. I’ve never been there but I was hooked.
The origins of this gigantic “tree stump” are as amazing as its appearance.
Though no one knows for sure, most geologists agree that it’s a magma intrusion — not a volcano — of rare igneous rock called phonolite porphyry that formed 50 million years ago. At first it was buried underground but erosion has exposed it to stand 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River.
The National Park Service describes it as the largest example of columnar jointing in the world.
The Devil’s Tower is important to Native American culture and was established as the first National Monument in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. It is one of the few monuments that allows rock climbing.
No it’s not a petrified tree.
(photos and images from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)