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Oregon Earth Symbols

Oregon Earth SymbolsSunstone (left) and thunderegg.

Found in south-central Oregon, the Oregon sunstone is Oregon’s most beautiful earth symbol. However, the state rock is more exciting.

According to legend, the thunderegg was given its name by Native Americans who dwelled in central Oregon. They allegedly believed the strange stones were thrown by dueling “Thunder Spirits” who lived on Mount Jefferson and Mount Hood.

In fact, thundereggs are more closely associated with volcanoes than thunderstorms. They are found in rhyolite lava flows that oozed over Oregon an estimated 60 million years ago. Geologists believe thundereggs were formed in gas pockets (bubbles) within the lava that served as molds.

The cooled bubbles were gradually filled by water percolating through the porous rock. The water, in turn, carried dissolved minerals, particularly silica, which crystallized to form agate or chalcedony inside the cavities. Other minerals present in the soil added beautiful colors, revealed in all their glory when thundereggs are cut and polished.

Fossil ˆ

Oregon State Fossil(Metasequoia Fossil: By Georgialh – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0link.)

While several states have adopted petrified wood as a symbol, Oregon adopted an entire plant. Metasequoia is related to California’s redwoods. In fact, it’s called the “dawn redwood.”

Metasequoia outlasted the dinosaurs and flourished across North America up until about five million years ago. In 1944, it was discovered that this ancient tree is still living in a remote region of China.

Soil ˆ

In 2011, Oregon adopted an official soil with an unassuming name: Jory. It’s named after Jory Hill in Marion County in northwestern Oregon. (Jory Hill, in turn, is named for the Jory family, who settled in the area in 1852, after traveling along the Oregon Trail.)

Jory soils are deep, well-drained soils that formed in the foothills surrounding the Willamette Valley. Jory soils are productive forest soils, but they support a variety of crops where forests have been cleared.

Sadly, croplands are in turn being cleared for development as the Willamette Valley becomes more urban.

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