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Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and stalagmites

Stalactites and stalagmites are formed by water dripping or flowing from fractures on the ceiling of a cave . They are the most common types of speleothems in caves. In caves, stalagmites grow rather slowly0.000280.037 in/yr (0.0070.929 mm/yr)while in artificial tunnels and basements they grow much faster. Soda straw stalactites are the fastest growing (up to 1.57 in/yr, 40 mm/yr), but most fragile stalactites in caves. Soda straw stalactites form along a drop of water and continue growing down from the cave ceiling forming a tubular stalactite, which resembles a drinking straw in appearance. Their internal diameter is exactly equal to the diameter of the water drop. Formation of most stalactites is initiated as soda straws. If water flows on their external surface, they begin to grow in thickness and obtain a conical form. If a stalactite curves along its length, it is called a deflected stalactite. If its curving is known to be caused by air currents, it is called anemolite. Petal-shaped tubular stalactites composed of aragonite are called spathites. When some stalactites touch each other they form a drapery with a curtain-like appearance.

When dripping water falls down on the floor of the cave it form stalagmites, which grow up vertically from the cave floor. Any changes in the direction of the growth axis of the stalagmite are suggestive of folding of the floor of the cave during the growth of the stalagmite. If a stalagmite is small, flat and round, it is called button stalagmite. Stalagmites resembling piled-up plates with broken borders are called pile-of-plates stalagmites. Rare varieties of stalagmites are mushroom stalagmites (partly composed of mud and having a mushroom shape), mud stalagmites (formed by mud) and lily pad stalagmites (resembling a lily pad on the surface of a pond). A calcite crust (shelfstone) grows around a stalagmite if it is flooded by a cave pool and forms a candlestick.

When a stalactite touches a stalagmite it forms a column. Usually, stalactites and stalagmites in caves are formed by calcite, less frequently by aragonite, and rarely by gypsum . Fifty-four other cave minerals are known to form rare stalactites.

Sometimes calcite stalactites or stalagmites are overgrown by aragonite crystals . This is due to precipitation of calcite that raises the ratio of magnesium to calcium in the solution enough that aragonite becomes stable.

Rarely, elongated single crystals or twins of calcite are vertically oriented and look like stalactites, but in fact are not stalactites because they are not formed by dripping or flowing water and don't have hollow channels inside. These elongated crystals are formed from water films on their surface.

In some volcanic lava tube caves exist lava stalactites and stalagmites that are not speleothems because they are not composed of secondary minerals . They are primary forms of the cooling, dripping lava.

The internal structure of stalactites and stalagmites across their growth axis usually consists of concentric rings around the hollow channel. These rings contain different amounts of clay and other inclusions, and reflect drier and wetter periods. Clay rings reflect hiatuses of the growth of the sample. Stalagmites may be formed for periods ranging from a few hundreds years up to one million years. Stalactites and stalagmites in caves have such great variety of shapes, forms, and color that each of them is unique in appearance. At the same time, their growth rates are so slow that once broken, they cannot recover during a human life span of time. Thus, stalactites and stalagmites are considered natural heritage objects and are protected by law in most countries, and their collection, mining, and selling is prohibited.

See also Cave minerals and speleothems

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stalactite and stalagmite

stalactite and stalagmite (stəlăg´mīt), mineral forms often found in caves; sometimes collectively called dripstone. A stalactite is an icicle-shaped mass of calcite attached to the roof of a limestone cavern. Groundwater trickling through cracks in the roofs of such caverns contains dissolved calcium bicarbonate. When a drop of water comes in contact with the air of the cavern, some of the calcium bicarbonate is transformed into calcium carbonate, which is precipitated out of the water solution and forms a ring of calcite on the roof of the cavern. By repetition of this process the length and thickness of the stalactite is increased. A stalagmite is a cone of calcite rising from the floor of a cavern. Stalagmites and stalactites are often found in pairs, the stalagmite being formed as a result of further evaporation and precipitation from solution after the trickle of water falls from the stalactite. Stalactites and stalagmites often meet each other to form solid pillars. Curtains of dripstone sometimes form when water drips from the ceiling of a cave along joint planes. Since stalactites, stalagmites, and curtains of dripstone form only in the presence of air, their existence in a cave indicates that the cave was above the water table while the dripstone was forming. The many colors often seen in these formations are caused by the presence of impurities. Celebrated caverns that owe much of their beauty to their stalactites and stalagmites are Mammoth Cave, Ky.; the Luray Caverns, Va.; and the Carlsbad Caverns, N.Mex. Onyx marble (Mexican onyx, Egyptian alabaster, or Oriental alabaster), used as a decorative stone, is derived from stalagmites and stalactites, as well as from similar deposits.

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stalactite

stalactite icicle-like deposit of carbonate of lime pendent from a cave-roof. XVI. — modL. stalactītēs, f. Gr. stalaktós dropping, dripping, f. stalak-, base of stalássein drip, let drip; see -ITE.
So stalagmite similar deposit rising from the floor of a cave. XVIII. — modL. stalagmītēs, f. Gr. stálagma, stalagmós.

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stalagmite

sta·lag·mite / stəˈlagˌmīt/ • n. a mound or tapering column rising from the floor of a cave, formed of calcium salts deposited by dripping water and often uniting with a stalactite. DERIVATIVES: stal·ag·mit·ic / ˌstaləgˈmitik/ adj.

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stalactite

sta·lac·tite / stəˈlakˌtīt/ • n. a tapering structure hanging like an icicle from the roof of a cave, formed of calcium salts deposited by dripping water. Compare with stalagmite. DERIVATIVES: sta·lac·tit·ic / ˌstaləkˈtitik/ adj.

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stalactite

stalactite.
1. System of corbelling, called muqarna, really brick squinches (see dome) and vaults with the soffits elaborately carved to resemble a series of stalactites, in Islamic, particularly Moorish, architecture.

2. Stone or stucco forms resembling stalactites or icicles, called congelation, found in grottoes.

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stalactite

stalactite An elongated body of dripstone descending from the roof of a cave in a karst environment. It is produced by calcite precipitation as excess carbon dioxide diffuses into the air from water droplets entering a cave environment.

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stalagmite

stalagmite A pinnacle of dripstone rising from the floor of a cave in a karst environment. It is produced by the precipitation of calcite as excess carbon dioxide diffuses into the air when water droplets strike the floor.

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stalactite

stalactite Elongated body of dripstone descending from the roof of a cave in a karst environment. It is produced by calcite precipitation as excess carbon dioxide diffuses from water droplets entering a cave environment.

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stalagmite

stalagmite Pinnacle of dripstone rising from the floor of a cave in a karst environment. It is produced by the precipitation of calcite as excess carbon dioxide diffuses when water droplets strike the floor.

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stalactite

stalactite Icicle-like formation of calcium carbonate found hanging from the roofs of caves. It is made by the precipitation of limestone from water that seeps into limestone caves.

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stalagmite

stalagmite Deposit of crystalline calcium carbonate rising from the floor of a cavern, and formed by dripping water that seeps into limestone caves.

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stalagmite

stalagmite: see stalactite and stalagmite.

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stalactite

stalactite •calcite • campsite •website • dacite • insight •Monophysite • magnesite • eyesight •hindsight • bombsight • foresight •bauxite • quartzite • leucocyte •Hussite • gunsight • phagocyte •marcasite • parasite • anthracite •oversight • worksite •bipartite, multipartite, partite, quadripartite, sexpartite, tripartite •transvestite • airtight • Hittite •magnetite • appetite • stalactite •watertight • Levite • Muscovite •Hepplewhite • bobwhite

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stalagmite

stalagmiteHamite, samite •marmite • Semite • Vegemite •eremite • Hashemite • Fatimite •chromite • Edomite • sodomite •stalagmite • Elamite • dolomite •Adullamite • dynamite • catamite •Benthamite •termite, thermite •Samnite • sennight • midnight •lignite • selenite • gelignite •kaolinite • Leninite •finite, transfinite •watchnight • fortnight • Sunnite •exurbanite, suburbanite, urbanite •manganite • ammonite • Mennonite •Canaanite • Maronite • bentonite •Irvingite • respite • alexandrite •Arkwright • cartwright • nephrite •playwright • wainwright •wheelwright • millwright •shipwright • copyright • Nazirite •pyrite • eyebright • nitrite • contrite •chlorite • forthright • downright •Fulbright • upright • meteorite •diorite • fluorite •Labourite (US Laborite) • sybarite •Thatcherite • phosphorite • azurite •anchorite • Hitlerite • dolerite •Amorite • Minorite • laterite •Hutterite • birthright

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