Ancient petrified tree from China attracts visitors at Denver museum

World Today

Tree 2

A large pre-historic petrified tree from China has grabbed people’s attention ever since it was installed at a museum in the U.S. state of Colorado several years ago.

Ancient petrified tree from China attracts visitors at Denver museum

A large pre-historic petrified tree from China has grabbed people’s attention ever since it was installed at a museum in the U.S. state of Colorado several years ago.

“We’re standing next to the world’s biggest bookends,” said James Hagadorn, a geology curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

The pieces are two halves of a 160-million-year-old, 3,600-kilogram chunk of petrified tree that now stands guard at the museum’s Gems and Minerals hall.

The tree fell over a long time ago and decayed, buried amid debris and murky water. Minerals such as quartz slowly replaced the wood and turned it into a colorful stone.

Graham Sutton, a mineral specimen dealer, spotted the tree in an outdoor market while prospecting in northwest China.

“That was the only one that was that big, that was solid,” Sutton said.

Sutton shipped the tree to the U.S. where a man bought it, then later donated it to the museum.

It took hours to install, with the help of a specially built stand. Unlike other exhibits, museum visitors are encouraged to be hands-on with this relic of the past.

“Everybody can relate to a tree,” Sutton said. “I mean this thing’s been on a journey for 160 million years. You know how often does that happen? How many things do you get to touch in your life that have that kind of story? Not very many.”

The tree has produced some science, revealing evidence of super monsoon rains in ancient China.

The area where the tree came from in Xinjiang, China is now protected, which makes the Denver pieces the only one like it in a U.S. museum.