"Undecayed" is an overstatement, I'm sure, but I once made this interesting observation in my childhood:
I remember swimming in some lake, and dredging up some leaves with my feet. They were black, but otherwise they looked as if they had just fallen from their trees.
Has anyone observed anything similar?
I think that this is relevant to the question of polystrate trees. They could have been drowned and then gradually buried by different sediments, lasting the whole time because they decay too slowly.
And why the slow decay? Decay is easier with oxygen; aerobic metabolism can release over 10 times as much energy as anaerobic metabolism. And lake-bottom decay microbes can easily consume most of the oxygen in their habitat, limiting how much decay they can perform.
"As to leaves, I would suggest looking at Robert A. Spicer, "The sorting and Deposition of Allochthonous Plant material in a Modern Environment at Silwood Lake, Silwood Park, Berkshire, England" U. S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1143 (1981) p. 43.
Cores taken from the lake show several layers of leaf litter still preserved at various depths. Core RB1 has leaves from the surface to .1 meter. A leaf layer at .25 m, .575 m, .6 m, 1.0-1.1 m, 1.3 m, 1.45 m.
Core DF1 has leaves in the sediment from .6 -.9 m and from 1.1 m to 1.2 m.
Other cores shown in Figure 44 show other buried and preserved leaf beds in the shallowest portion of the leaves."
Spicer, R. A., 1981, “The Sorting and Deposition of Allochthonous Plant Material in a Modern Environment at Silwood Lake, Silwood Park, Berkshire, England. Professional Paper. no. 1143. US Geological Survey Professional Paper, Reston, Virginia.
When paleontologists and geologists collect cores from modern lakes to analyze for pollen, they often find well-preserved leaves, pine needles and other plant remains, called "plant macrofossils". Such remains have been recovered from lake sediments many thousands of years old. Numerous documented examples can be found in "TERRESTRIAL AND LIMNIC MACROFOSSILS" at:
In fact, radiocarbon calibration has been done from leaves and other plant macrofossils collected from varved lake deposits. Two examples are:
Goslar, T., Arnold, M., Tisnerat, L. M., Hatte, C., Paterne, M., and Ralska, J. M., 2000, Radiocarbon calibration by means of varves versus (super 14) C ages of terrestrial macrofossils from Lake Gosciaz and Lake Perespilno, Poland. Radiocarbon. vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 335-348.
2. Scientific Report 1995-1997 PE-04. A 45.000 YEAR VARVE CHRONOLOGY FROM JAPAN by H. Kitagawa and J. van der Plicht at:
"From the laminated sediments we selected terrestrial-origin macrofossils such as leaves, branches and insects for AMS 14C measurements."
Kitagawa, H., and van der Plicht, J., 1998. Atmospheric Radiocarbon Calibration to 45,000 yr B.P.: Late Glacial Fluctuations and Cosmogenic Isotope Production, Science. vol. 279, no. 5354, pp. 1187- 1190.
"I think that this is relevant to the question of polystrate trees. They could have been drowned and then gradually buried by different sediments, lasting the whole time because they decay too slowly."
Polystrate trees have been found buried in sediments associated with the modern course of the Mississippi River and its current delta. near Donaldsonville, LA three levels of polystrate trees have been found buried on top of each other within backswamp sediments that underlie the modern Mississippi River floodplain. it is impossible for these polystrate trees to result from any type of catastrophic global flood. The occurence of three layers of polystrate trees is documented in an article titled "Buried Forests Could Provide Clues to the Past" published in the December 2002, vol. 12, no. 2, issue of the "Louisiana Geological Survey News". Free copies of this issue of this newsletter can be ordered from them at:
And why the slow decay? Decay is easier with oxygen; aerobic metabolism can release over 10 times as much energy as anaerobic metabolism. And lake-bottom decay microbes can easily consume most of the oxygen in their habitat, limiting how much decay they can perform."
The preservation of wood in water saturated sediments is extremely well documented. For example, the burial shipwrecks in modern rivers was effective in preserving wooden canoes , boats, and ships within river sediments. Several examples of such vessels are described in the January 10, 1998 issue of "Science News". In this issue, Perkins (1998) discussed a number of historic shipwrecks that archaeologists have found in the last few years. Two historic shipwrecks were the "Arabia", found beneath a Kansas cornfield, and the "Bertrand", found near Missouri Valley, Iowa. Both sank in the Missouri River and later buried intact by the shifting of its channel River rather then by any catastrophe. Another example is the relatively intact hull of a riverboat containing the the bones of horses, that perished on it, found in the point bar deposits of the Red River. Also, the wooden hulls of the Civil War gunboat "U.S.S. Eastport" and the late 1880s steamboat "S. S. Dix" have been preserved by burial in water saturated sediments (Albertson (1995, 1996). Wood, leaves, plant fragments are abundant in the historic and Holocene sediments of many modern rivers where the sediments have remained water- saturated.
Similar remains of wooden ships have been found all along the Mississippi, Missouri, and other rivers around the world.. Some published examples are the remains of the Civil War gunboat "Arrow," from Southeast Louisiana (Pearson et al. 1991). Another example is an intact, 400 to 500 year old Native American dugout canoe found by archaeologists deeply buried in fluvial sediments along Steele Bayou, an abandoned channel of the Mississippi River. This was designated as Site 22WS776 (Fuller 1992).
The abstract for Fuller (1992) stated:
"In August of 1989 a dugout canoe was discovered during dredging operations in Steele Bayou in Washington County, Mississippi. The canoe, was found in the bank of a section of the bayou that flows through Swan Lake, a relict meander loop of the Mississippi River. After inspection of the canoe and its location, archaeologists with the Vicksburg District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History made arrangements to temporarily protect the vessel and to have it recovered and preserved."
The abstract for Fuller (1992) further stated:
"When recovered the canoe was found to be entirely complete and amazingly well preserved. Analyses and interpretations of the canoe and its setting indicate it is late Mississippian in age, probably dating around A.D. 1500-1600. Associated artifacts and biotic remains are believed to be accumulations of redeposited, water-borne materials that collected in and around the flow shadow created by the canoe. The position and condition of the vessel suggest it may have been abandoned at the location where it was found. After recovery and recordation, the canoe was transported to the Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge headquarters where it will undergo conservation."
The sediments filling this canoe contained abundant well-preserved teeth and bones of reptiles and fish and the shells of freshwater snails and mussels that had accumulated in it after the canoe had sunk. An abundance of wood and other plant material were found in the sediments surrounding the canoe (Fuller 1992).
The above examples demonstrate that the burial and preservation of organic materials, i.e. shells and wood, doesn't require any catastrophic processes. In all of the above cases, the normal meandering of a river was sufficient to have buried and preserved wooden objects as large as riverboats.
Fuller, R. S., 1992, Archaeological Recovery and Analysis of an Indian Dugout Canoe (Site 22 WS 776) Discovered in the Bank of Steele Bayou, Swan Lake, Washington County, Mississippi. Final report by Coastal Environments, Inc. prepared under Contract Number DACW38-89-D-0038, Delivery Order no. 7, for the Vicksburg District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Pearson, C. E., Guevin, B. L., and Saltus, A. R., 1991, Remote Sensing Survey of the Lower Pearl and West Rivers, Louisiana and Mississippi. Final report by Coastal Environments, Inc. prepared under Contract Number DACW38-89-D-0038, Delivery Order no. 8, for the Vicksburg District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Perkins, S., 1998, Freshwater Finds: Inland Waters Yield a Trove of Artifact, History, and Mystery. Science News. vol. 153, no. 2, pp. 17-32.
Even more examples of wooden shipwrecks preserved by non- catastrophic processes are discussed at:
Also, the Young Earth creationist overlook whole forests of polystrate trees buried in the volcanic deposits, especially lahars, around Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainer, and many other stratovolcanos around the world.
Some references about the Mt. Hood forests are:
Lawrence, D. B., and Lawrence, E. G., 1959, Radiocarbon dating of some events on Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens. Mazama. vol. 40, no. 14, pp. 10-18.
Cameron, K. A., and Pringle, P. T., 1987, A Detailed Chronology of the Most Recent Major Eruptive Period at Mount Hood, Oregon. Geological Society of American Bulletin. vol. 99, no. 6, pp. 845-851.
Cameron, K. A., and Pringle, P. T., 1991, Prehistoric buried forests of Mount Hood. Oregon Geology. vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 34-43.
Forests of polystrate trees are also buried in Holocene and historic lahar deposits of Mt. St. Helens, a person can look at:
Karowe, A. L., and Jefferson, T. H., 1987, Burial of Trees by Eruptions of Mount St. Helens, Washington: Implications for the Interpretation of Fossil Forests. Geological Magazine. vol. 124, no. 3, pp. 191-204.
In some places of the world fossil timber refuse to turn to stone and remains in the condition it was buried. I guess the most famous place is the Tarkin Wilderness in Tasmania. A ten meter meter high wall of used-to-be-forest material is alleged to be deposited there 35 My ago. The laeves and branches are in uncomprehensible perfect state and look like they were burries last year/decade.
In some places of the world fossil timber refuse to turn to stone and remains in the condition it was buried. I guess the most famous place is the Tarkin Wilderness in Tasmania. A ten meter meter high wall of used-to-be-forest material is alleged to be deposited there 35 My ago. The laeves and branches are in uncomprehensible perfect state and look like they were burried last year/decade.