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How do Stalactites or Stalagmites Form?

Caves all over the globe are decorated with stalagmites and stalactites. Stalactites hang from the ceiling while stalagmites rise from the ground. They grow slowly and some of them are so old that they predate modern man Live Science previously reported.

These tooth-like rock formations form when water is dripped into cave air. Water contains dissolved minerals that it has picked up during its journey to the surface of Earth. It leaves trace minerals as it goes through the cave. This helps to build each stalactite one by one. Visit if you want to read about life science discoveries in detail.

What shape are stalactites?

Most stalactites have a cone shape: they are thick at the top and tapered at the bottom. Some stalactites are hollow, however. These stalactites look like straws and grow as water drips down their centers. Each drop of water evaporates leaving behind another layer of minerals at its bottom.

Some stalactites with straw-shaped shapes seem to defy gravity. These structures are known as helictites and have twists, spurs, and knobbles that tilt in every direction.

Every drop of water contains dissolved calcium particles. They become hardened when they touch air. According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, most stalactites found in caves are calcium carbonate. It is responsible for two types of crystals, aragonite, and calcite.  

Stalagmites can often be found directly underneath stalactites. They absorb any minerals that are thrown down onto the cave floor by collecting them. The cave decorations don't have to be paired. They can also appear as a single piece.