The Devils Tower rock formation in Wyoming is made of a rare type of rock eroded over millions of years, not the remains of an ancient tree stump, as social media users are suggesting anew. Reuters has previously debunked the idea that Devils Tower is really a giant prehistoric tree.
But aerial video of the natural stone tower is being shared online with the label “ancient tree” and some user comments claim that “mountains were once ancient trees” or that the footage shows a “giant tree root”.
A Twitter user posted the video with the remark, “This is a stump of what's left from the ancient tree” (here). Examples can also be found on Facebook (here).
The circulating video does not identify the location, but similar footage of Devils Tower from Wyoming PBS can be seen at around timestamp 22:18 (here).
The rock formation is a U.S. National Monument, whose exact geological origins remain partly unclear. But geologists do agree that it is made of rock, specifically a rare igneous rock called phonolite porphyry, according to the National Park Service, which administers the monument.
The natural structure is also the largest example of “columnar jointing” in the world, the park service notes on its website (here). “Geologists agree that Devils Tower began as magma, or molten rock buried beneath the Earth’s surface. What they cannot agree upon are the processes by which the magma cooled to form the Tower, or its relationship to the surrounding geology of the area,” the park service website said.
In 2020, Reuters Fact Check debunked a similar false claim that Devils Tower was an ancient tree whose underground roots had just been discovered (here). Nicholos Myers, supervisory park ranger for the Devils Tower National Monument, said at the time that “there is no evidence to support such a theory as a tree stump”.
The aerial video shared in social media posts shows a nearly 360-degree view of the alleged ancient tree. Reuters could not trace the origin of the video, but details of the formation visible in the video can also be seen in Google Earth satellite imagery of Devils Tower.
The view at timestamp 0:06 of the video can be seen on Google Earth (tinyurl.com/3aaczmnu), and the view at timestamp 0:14 can be seen (tinyurl.com/3rymm64r). Side-by-side comparisons of these images can be seen (imgur.com/a/W8eDe0v).
False. The video does not show a stump from an ancient tree. It is footage of Devils Tower, a natural rock formation in Wyoming.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .
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