Utah Most specimens are a palm of the genus Palmoxylon, which has been named as the state fossil of Louisiana. Palmoxylon did not produce a true “wood” composed of cellulose and lignin. Instead it was a plant that looked similar to a modern palm tree with a trunk made up of parenchyma, a fibrous support material that surrounded hollow tubes of the plant’s vascular structure known as xylem and phloem.
These tubes transported water, nutrients, wastes, and other materials through the plant. Ground water flowing through the sediments carried dissolved silica that sometimes precipitated within the hollow xylem and phloem to preserve them. The silica would also replace the fibrous parenchyma. This infilling and replacement of the plant structures with solid silica produced the fossil known as “petrified palm. Pieces of this material that are completely and uniformly silicified are often of high enough quality to be cut, polished, and used as gems.
It is also used to make small sculptures, spheres, book ends, and other ornamental objects. When the material is cut along the length of a palm trunk, the tubes of the vascular structure often have an appearance that resembles wood grain. When it is cut perpendicular to the palm trunk, the tubes of the vascular structure often display as an array of “dots. An oval cabochon cut from Louisiana palm with three colors of chalcedony.
This stone measures about 40 millimeters x 30 millimeters in size. Louisiana palm fossils can be colorful. They typically range in color from white to honey brown or from chocolate brown to black. Red, orange, and pink colors are also found. The material is usually a chalcedony, but some occurrences of opalized palm are known.
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It is also attractive enough and abundant enough to be widely known, and for those reasons it was named as Louisiana’s state fossil. A square cabochon cut from sandstone found in Vernon Parish, Louisiana, that is cemented with precious opal. A play-of-color is produced by the interstitial cement when the cabochon is moved under incident light. The cabochon measures approximately 20 x 20 millimeters in size. If you examine this material closely, you will find that it is a sandstone in which the sand grains are bound together by a cement of clear precious opal.
When a polished cabochon is played in incident light, the interstitial opal can produce small patches of play-of-color.
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The material is not spectacular in appearance, but it is a genuine precious opal.