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Plants that soften stone?

Jeffrey L Baker jbaker at gas.uug.arizona.edu
Fri Feb 3 19:18:32 EST 1995

On Wed, 1 Feb 1995 glh8180 at Msu.oscs.montana.edu wrote:

> In article <1995Jan27.085622.20694 at lafn.org>, ae954 at lafn.org (richard nisbet) writes:
> >
> >I'm not a botanist, so please don't get in a snit over my
> >ignorance.   I am working on a book on the Peruvian Stoneworks.
> >From the time of the Spanish Chroniclers (mid 1500's) there have
> >been theories and legends that the incredibly accurate fit of 
> >their masonry was accomplished with a plant that had the 
> >capability of softening stone.
> 	Yes, it is possible. Some plants that are ecologically adapted to life
> in rock crevices (and this is a common phenomenon among alpine plants) secrete
> acids to soften the rock. Thus they gain a greater foothold in their niche. It
> may well be possible that the Peruvians knew of a few such plants from
> observation. However, I apologize for not being able to give you any exact
> species as I do not know the flora of the Andes.

Most of the evidence for the Peruvian stoneworks strongly indicates that
they were made by excellent stonemasons. There is no evidence that plants
provided any additional assistence in this endeavor.

Jeff Baker
jbaker at anthro.arizona.edu

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