Natural Charcoal? Who Knew!

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Natural charcoal

These pieces of charcoal formed naturally in the soil. Photo by D. Rashash

As you dig around in your yard, you may come across what looks like charred wood. It may, in fact, be naturally formed charcoal. There are several possible explanations for how the charcoal formed. Two of them are:

  • When the land was cleared, trees and branches may have been burned on-site, then buried. If not completely burned, the charred wood would remain.
  • If the site was forest prior to development, a fire in the past may have burned the wood above-ground; however, the wood below ground level (roots and stumps) may not have had enough oxygen to burn completely. Rather than going to ash, the wood would smolder slowly and turn to charcoal.
Two pieces of naturally-formed charcoal

These two pieces of charcoal formed naturally in the soil. Have you ever found any? Photo by D. Rashash.

Curious? There are several online videos that discuss and show the process for making charcoal. In the past, the people who made or gathered charcoal as their trade were called colliers.

So the next time that you are working in your yard or garden, you may come across some charcoal. And now, you know two ways that it may have gotten there.