Social media users have been sharing content claiming that scientists discovered that the Devil’s Tower butte in Wyoming is originally a giant tree after finding “an incredibly large petrified root system” underneath it. This claim is false.
One post reads: “DEVILS TOWER US…ORIGINALLY A GIANT TREE. Scientists from the Wyoming State Parks Department were conducting photographic seismic readings below the tower, when they discovered an incredibly large petrified root system below the tower. The parks department released a statement saying, “We have discovered, what looks like a giant root system stemming from the base of The Devils Tower. The root system has been measured at 4 miles deep by 7 miles wide.” ( here )
Reuters could not find a statement like this from the Wyoming State Parks Department. A Google search of the quote does not reveal anything except for posts by blogs and meme pages.
The tower is made up of a rare igneous rock called phonolite porphyry. Geologists do not fully know how it formed and there are different theories on details here .
Nicholos Myers, Supervisory Park Ranger for the Devils Tower National Monument and part of the National Park Service (NPS) confirmed to Reuters via email that this claim is false. He said, “there is no evidence to support such a theory as a tree stump or petrified tree roots,” and directed people to an NPS list of formation theories, here .
KGAB AM 650, a local radio station, published an article in August 2017 called “Help spread Wyoming’s new myth.” ( here ) The article urges locals to spread a myth about Devil’s Tower: “You’ve heard of petrified wood, right? Well, that is what you are looking at when you see the mighty Devil’s Tower, here in Wyoming. That’s right, it was once a giant tree. Look again. Doesn’t that look like a huge tree stump to you? Sure it does.”
The article cites a Facebook post by “Casper Planet”, who originally started the myth in July 2017 ( here ). The “about” section of the page explains: “Delivering the Snews that doesn’t matter directly to your Snews feed. satire, humor, and opinion, names/locations are made up.”
Casper Planet’s post cites www.infinitysnews.com, which does not exist. The image purportedly showing “the roots” of the tower actually shows the root system of sweet corn at 8 weeks ( here ).