Cave popcorn

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Cave popcorn with frostwork

Cave popcorn, or coralloids, are small nodes of calcite, aragonite or gypsum that form on surfaces in caves, especially limestone caves.[1][2] They are a common type of speleothem.[1][2]


Cave popcorn trays

The individual nodules of cave popcorn range in size from 5 to 20 mm and may be decorated by other speleothems, especially aragonite needles or frostwork.[1][2] The nodules tend to grow in clusters on bedrock or the sides of other speleothems.[1] These clusters may terminate suddenly in either an upward or downward direction, forming a stratographic layer.[1] When they terminate in a downward direction, they may appear as flat bottomed formations known as trays.[1]

Individual nodes of popcorn can assume a variety of shapes from round to flattened ear or button like shapes.[2]

The color of cave popcorn is usually white, but various other colors are possible depending on the composition.[2]


Button cave popcorn

Cave popcorn can form by precipitation.[1] Water seeping through limestone walls or splashing onto them leaves deposits when CO2 loss causes its minerals to precipitate.[2] When formed in this way, the resultant nodules have the characteristics of small balls of flowstone.[1]

Cave popcorn can also form by evaporation in which case it is chalky and white like edible popcorn.[1] In the right conditions, evaporative cave popcorn may grow on the windward side of the surface to which it is attached or appear on the edges of projecting surfaces.[1]

Alisadr Cave, Hamedan, Iran

On manmade structures (outside the cave environment)[edit]

Popcorn can also occur on concrete structures outside the cave environment; these are classified as calthemite coralloids. Calthemite coralloids also occur in "artificial caves" such as mines or railway or vehicle tunnels were there is a source of lime, mortar or cement from which the calcium ions can be leached.

Coralloids can form by a number of different methods in caves; however, on concrete the most common form is created when a hyperalkaline solution seeps from fine cracks in concrete. Due to solution evaporation, deposition of calcium carbonate occurs before any drop can form. The resulting coralloids are small and chalky with a cauliflower appearance.[citation needed]

Calthemite coralloids growing on underside of concrete structure and straw stalactite


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Palmer, Arthur N. (2007). Cave Geology. Dayton, OH: CAVE BOOKS. p. 288. ISBN 978-0-939748-66-2.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Hill, Carol; Forti, Paolo (1997). Cave Minerals of the World (Second Edition ed.). Huntsville, AL: National Speleological Society. pp. 59–61. ISBN 1-879961-07-5.

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