No, you cannot burn petrified wood. Petrified wood is not longer “wood,” despite it’s name.
Curious? Let us explain.
Why Can Petrified Wood Burn? (Or Not?)
Most petrified wood that is found out there in the world is millions of years old.
Not all wood that existed millions of years ago becomes petrified.
A specific set of circumstances has to exist for the petrification process to occur.
The wood/tree/branch/etc needed to have been put into a situation where the normal decay process couldn’t occur.
In the meantime, over a period of millions of years, water containing minerals seeped through the area and the wood, depositing and leaving trace minerals behind.
Overtime, the minerals deposited take the place of the organic cells.
And when we say minerals, we mean like silicon dioxide and calcite, among others.
The colors come from impurities, such as iron and manganese.
These minerals are similar to what you’d find while rock hunting; they make up familiar stones like quartz crystals, agates, jaspers, amethyst, onyx, opal, and more.
Once the petrification process is complete, nothing of the tree remains except it’s shape and structure.
You can often still see the growth rings in the tree.
But it’s not wood anymore.
Think about it…would you throw a hunk of quartz on a fire and expect it to burn?
Or set up a bunch of agates on top of some newspaper and expect those pieces to catch fire if you burned the paper?
Of course not.
But if you were to throw a piece of petrified wood on a fire, it is pretty much the same thing as throwing a quartz crystal on a fire.
However, petrified wood can be used to help start a fire (by hitting a fire striker or firesteel with the petrified wood to throw a spark).
What Happens If You Were To Throw A Piece Of Petrified Wood On A Fire?
Not much of anything.
If the fire were already pretty hot, the material would definitely get hot.
Depending on what is already in the fire, the stone itself might blacken.
But it’s not like coal, which would catch fire and burn.
Petrified wood is not made up of a substance that burns at the temperatures you’d normally see in a fireplace.
This is why some people even use petrified wood in the building of their fireplace…because it doesn’t burn.
What About People Who Claim To Have Burned Petrified Wood?
Our best guess is that the wood that they were burning wasn’t actually scientifically petrified wood.
Maybe it was really really old wood, reclaimed wood, wood that had been buried and looks fossilized (but isn’t petrified), or someone was using the term “petrified” to mean something else.
Or you fell for a really common April Fool’s Joke.
What If The Petrified Wood Looks Burned?
If you find petrified wood that looks burned, is it possible that the burned piece was burned before the petrification process finished.
Sometimes this is observed when forests fire rage through an area, and what is left after the fire is buried or covered by before the wood could completely decompose, perhaps during volcanic activity.
But then again, the piece might also just be a piece of petrified wood with coal on it, as this is known to occur around coal deposits.
Or, the piece might not be petrified wood at all, and instead could just be a another mineral that forms in layers, closely resembling the growth rings we’d see from the internal structure of the tree.