Dr. Neil H. Suneson, a Geologist IV from the Oklahoma Geological Society, discusses petrified wood with the members of the Tahlequah Rock and Mineral Society Tuesday evening at the Tahlequah Public Library. Photo by Travina Coleman

Did you know the oldest petrified wood is found in Oklahoma?

This was just one of the things the members and guests of the Tahlequah Rock and Mineral Society learned about during a special meeting held at the Tahlequah Public Library Tuesday evening.

Dr. Neil H. Suneson, a geologist with the Oklahoma Geological Society presented a powerpoint slide show discussing his favorite geological formation – petrified wood.

“I first became interested in geology when I found a piece of petrified wood where I lived in New Jersey,” Suneson said. “I wasn’t but in the second or third grade and it captivated me. I have been doing this since.”

Suneson said people have a lot of misconceptions about petrified wood.

“Petrifaction happens when the mineral silica goes in and takes over a piece,” he said. “The wood has to be devoid of oxygen otherwise bugs would go in and eat it.

He said true petrified wood, is no longer wood, but a “cast” made by natural minerals.

“We can learn a lot by the petrified wood found in Oklahoma,” he said. “The wood is 1,500 years old. We learn from the wood the type of trees that grew. For instance if it’s from a fir or a spruce tree we know that the climate must have been cooler at that time.”

He also said anyone interested in geology, or those with some basic questions, the Oklahoma Geological Survey in Norman, is a “one-stop shop for all questions.”

“If we don’t have the answers on file we will find them,” he said.

“If you are a taxpayer, then you are our boss.”

Suneson said years ago people made a big deal of a petrified wood home, but said that Oklahoma actually has 12 as it occurred in Oklahoma.

Some other occurrences of petrified wood happen in Oklahoma river beds.

“The pebbles and cobbles here were found in the Canadian River,” he said.

“They were derived and transported by older geological formations.

He said some of the oldest know wood, the Callixylon around 1.6 billion years old,S can be found in the southeastern part of the state, in Antlers.

The mission of the rock and mineral society, founded in 1986, is to promote the earth science field in adults and children through class activities, education, rock shows and swaps.

Sally Brasel, treasurer for the club, said she got interested in the science later in her adult years.

“I was curious about rocks I would find when I was a child,” she said. “But it wasn’t until I got older did I start really getting into it.

And while she hasn’t found a diamond yet, she said it doesn’t discourage her at all.

“If you like digging through plowed earth then this is for you,” she said.


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