Growth patterns and implications of complex dendrites in calcite travertines from Lýsuhóll, Snæfellsnes, Iceland



Calcite dendrite crystals are important but poorly understood components of calcite travertine that forms around many hot springs. The Lýsuhóll hot-spring deposits, located in western Iceland, are formed primarily of siliceous sinters that were precipitated around numerous springs that are now inactive. Calcite travertine formed around the vent and on the discharge apron of one of the springs at the northern edge of the area. The travertine is formed largely of two types (I and II) of complex calcite dendrite crystals, up to 1 cm high, that grew through the gradual addition of trilete sub-crystals. The morphology of the dendrite crystals was controlled by flow direction and the competition for growth space with neighbouring crystals. Densely crowded dendrites with limited branching characterize the rimstone dams whereas widely spaced dendrites with open branching are found in the pools. Many dendrite bushes in the pools nucleated around plant stems. Growth of the dendrite crystals was seasonal and incremental. Calcite precipitation was driven by rapid CO2 degassing of CO2-rich spring waters during the spring and summer. During winter, when snow covered the ground and temperatures were low, opal-A precipitated on the exposed surfaces of the dendrites. Segmentation of dendrite branches by discontinuities coated with opal-A and overgrowth development around sub-crystals resulted from this seasonal growth cycle. The calcite dendrite crystals in the Lýsuhóll travertine differ in morphology from those at other hot springs, such as those at Lake Bogoria, Kenya, and Waikite in New Zealand. Comparison with the calcite dendrite crystals found at those sites shows that dendrite morphology is site-specific and probably controlled by carbonate saturation levels that, in turn, are controlled by the rate of CO2 degassing and location in the spring outflow system.