The scientific tourist #23 — fossilized roots

For this week’s images (I sort of skipped last week, so today you get two!), we’re going back to the White Sands National Monument. As I’ve mentioned previously, many plants are able to survive the passage of an oncoming sand dune by growing fast enough to keep their tops above the sands. In some cases, this results in the formation of a gypsum pedestal.

But of course, not every plant manages to pull this off. The unlucky ones become encased in gypsum sand — sometimes being desiccated and encased by the sand, other times becoming replacement fossils as the surrounding minerals gradually fill enlarging gaps in the decaying wood structure. The result is a hillside covered with small, odd-looking, rough pellets:

Fossils on the sand

And here’s what one of the fossils looks like up close:

Fossil closeup

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