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serpentineYesterday as I drove through the Anderson Valley between Navarro and Cloverdale, I spotted several serpentine barrens north of the road. Fortunately, none of the area's renowned vineyards were on them. That would have been a bad sign. I have read somewhere that a stubborn California viticulturist once got vines to grow in serpentinite by pouring fertilizer on them nonstop, and the juice that resulted had a hazardous level of chromium.

Other than that, I love serpentinite's distinctive appearance—glossy surfaces and blue-green colors. It means that other interesting rocks are nearby, all formed in a vigorous tectonic past.

I've been away from the trenches of the effort to preserve "serpentine" as California's state rock. The last set of links I posted was weeks ago. What have you done or read on this issue lately?

  • Brian Wernicke and Garry Hayes were on NPR Friday talking about serpentinite, its friends and enemies.
  • The Monterey County Herald ran a whimsical editorial typical of the coverage in the print media. I don't blame them, it's the midsummer "silly season" and those wacky rockhounds and the Twitter have turned this into a readymade item.
  • Brandon Schwab of Humboldt State University has had his lucid op-ed defending serpentine printed in the Ukiah Daily Journal.
  • The Santa Rosa PressDemocrat opined in favor of less sneaky lawmaking.
  • And the New York Times served up a slice of wry aimed at the picturesque doings of those darn Californians, perhaps not knowing that Staten Island has a large body of serpentinite exposed in roadcuts, just a few miles from its shiny headquarters. (About.com is a NYT company, but of course I have no influence on the paper's editorials.)

By the way, I should point out that the official "Drop the Rock" campaign's online petition has only 32 signatures a year after it was launched. And only 10 are from California. Moreover, the signers are under the mistaken impression that SB624 will change the state rock. Not so—the state rock will be eliminated from state law.
Serpentinite in Oakland, California — Geology Guide photo


July 23, 2010 at 10:57 am
(1) Jon Christensen says:


Try Green & Red’s zinfandel, grown on serpentine soils in Napa, sometime. It’s very good. I believe there are a few other good California wines grown on serpentine. Perhaps we should organize a tasting sometime.

Happy trails!


July 25, 2010 at 7:49 pm
(2) Geology Guide says:

Green & Red zin is indeed wonderful wine, but while they talk about their “red iron soils veined with serpentine,” I would bet money that there’s only a bit of it in their actual vineyard.

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