So in my world, the main Antagonist has the ability to drain the life from things around her, turning them to stone in the process. That made me wonder how organic material would erode if it were petrified.

As an example, this antagonist lives in a forest turned entirely to stone—including all living organisms within: animals, insects, fungi, bacteria, etc. So anything that could naturally disturb or break down the trees and remains is gone. The only thing left to affect them is weather such as rain or hail, wind and lightning; plus thermal patterns like freezing and expansion from seasonal changes.

To give some clarification on a few things:

  • The forest is in a valley between 2 mountain ranges.
  • Seasonal changes do occur; the region is similar to the continental Mid U.S.
  • People and animals don't go in this region except through specific paths.
  • The remains are similar in density to sandstone, or other soft, porous rock.

Lastly, I was wondering about the scope and scale of this.

What time period would the forest decay over, and what would happen to the debris from the erosion? Could the forest feasibly transform into a desert over the course of about 200 years? Would rain wash much of it away, since there's no longer root structures or living plant matter to bind soil together? Finally, what's a realistic timescale for living organisms like plant matter, or bacteria even, to return to the affected region—if ever?

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    $\begingroup$ In short: if it's in a valley, very soon everything will be eroded by rain. It will essentially become sand and rock conglomerate (look the terms up). If the soil (i.e. clay minerals etc) remains in place, living things would return the minute the magic-life-draining-force stops. If the soil has also become solid rock, then it would take a while. Lookup "plant colonization of lava" online for an idea of time scales required for life to emerge on barren rock. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Nov 7, 2019 at 9:30
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    $\begingroup$ Petrified wood is not organic. It is stone. It will erode just like any other stone of the same kind. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 7, 2019 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ This sounds a bit like the anime/manga Dr Stone $\endgroup$
    – user69935
    Nov 7, 2019 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ @alex depending on the type of petrified wood it can be both. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 19, 2019 at 6:38
  • $\begingroup$ things will start migrating in almost instantly, roaming animals and wind blown spores/seeds. just look at how fast newly formed volcanic islands start being colonized, and they are surrounded by ocean not land. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 19, 2019 at 6:46

3 Answers 3


I don't think that a tree turned to stone could actually keep standing (I might be wrong).

Trees (branches, leaves, fruits) are lightweight as compared to the stone, of course, So once magically they are turned to stone, It's trunk must not be able to hold onto its weight. So, the trees will fall, maybe instantly or in a few hours or days depending upon their trunk size.

So, assuming that the tress will fall, they will actually fall on the petrified life-forms, deers, pigs, or whatever is below them, crushing them into nothingness. Hence your antagonist will actually be living in a rumble, instead of a jungle. So the removal of a recognizable jungle will actually be a lot faster then you have imagined.

If nothing else, at least the leaves will fall, their connection to the branches are too week. In this case, all the trees will look like after Autumn, and whatever standing below them, crushed by the rain of rock-leaves.

(I originally intended this to be a comment, but then it became too long.)

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    $\begingroup$ This is something I hadn't thought about; I'm very curious to see if anyone else would be able to provide more information. As far as I've written the story, the mass/density of the transformed objects doesn't change, just their atomic structure and chemical makeup. So I don't believe they'd become massively heavier. The leaves falling is something I hadn't considered at all—in my mind I'd just pictured a stone tree, but your explanation seems far more realistic. I guess the rest of the tree depends on the shear strength of stone vs. the length of the branches and trunks...and wind strength. $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2019 at 23:08
  • $\begingroup$ Also the first area to erode will be the feet/trunks where flowing water passes. Branches will fall before the trunks, even on straight trees. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Nov 8, 2019 at 2:09
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    $\begingroup$ @DigitalDevourer Things not changing mass when petrified makes sense, but consider the fact that a normal tree can withstand high winds because it's flexible if the tree turns to stone it may fall in high winds again depending on the trunk size. $\endgroup$
    – V.Aggarwal
    Nov 8, 2019 at 4:00
  • $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet That's something else I hadn't considered. So it's more likely that the base will erode quicker than the rest, causing the trees to fall down. $\endgroup$ Nov 8, 2019 at 21:06
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    $\begingroup$ @V.Aggarwal Hmm, the force of wind against the trees would become more important then, since they wouldn't be able to bend against it. I suppose this would also apply to smaller objects like bushes and grasses, which might just shatter as soon as a storm hits, turning into wind-blown debris. $\endgroup$ Nov 8, 2019 at 21:09

Rocks will erode as rocks do: rain, thermal cycles between day/night and summer/winter will slowly crack the rock and living organisms will slowly reduce it to smaller particles. That's how we have lost a lot of fossils.

Lichens will probably be the first to grow on the rocks, like they do on freshly formed volcanic rocks after volcanic eruptions.

Then, if the region is rainy enough, moss will follow and then more evolved plants. The whole process will take just few years. With the plants also animals will start move in.

Being a valley and not an island in the middle of the ocean, biotic colonization will be much easier.


There are some weird things going to happen in that uncanny valley of yours.

It seems that your Antagonist does not need to choose those things that will turn to stone, just anything within her zone of influence.

If the zone of influence is roughly spherical, every mote of life is turned to rocks - so birds will fall out of the sky when they move into her Zone of influence. I'm guessing she has the ability to avoid falling stone birds.

As there will be no life - there will be no moss or anything else. The main eroding forces will be wind, rain, and freeze. The forest will not be turned to sandy desert in 200 years, but will have stumps and rubble everywhere. It will be a desert in the true meaning, as soon as your antagonist resides there - as there will be no life (it will be deserted of life apart from your antagonist).

I'm assuming that your antagonist doesn't need to eat organic matter to survive, right? Otherwise it's going to be a rather fast starvation....

I guess there's also a problem if the antagonist themselves is organic - as most organic multicellular organisms are really communities of organic beings - it would be very unhealthy if every time one cast a spell, all the bacteria in one's body turned to stone.

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    $\begingroup$ The Antagonist is basically a sentient,malicious "Tree Spirit" that dwells in the center of the forest. She uses the energy of living things in the forest to sustain herself, so she won't need to eat or anything like that. The zone is spherical, though, so it would affect equally down and up from the center, equivalent to the radius of the forest. It occurs to me this might cause the ground to sink from the sudden weight, but I'm not certain. I haven't decided if mass/density of the petrified objects changes with the transformation, or just their atomic structure and/or state of matter. $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2019 at 22:58

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