Desert Rose - Types, and Where Are Desert Roses Found?

Desert rose is the colloquial name given to rose-like formations of crystal clusters of gypsum or baryte which include abundant sand grains.The 'petals' are crystals flattened on the c crystallographic axis, fanning open in radiating flattened crystal clusters.

A desert rose is a mineral formation that takes the shape of a rose. It is made up of gypsum or baryte crystals that have been deposited in a circular pattern around sand grains. Desert roses typically form in arid desert regions, where the evaporation of water leaves behind the minerals.

Desert roses are crystals which usually take the form of rose petal. They have definite crystal shapes, and enclose sand grains. A gypsum rosette is not a rose at all, it is a mineral which crystalizes in a unique rosette growth pattern.

Desert Rose Types, Uses, and Where are Desert Roses found?
Natural Desert Roses. Large cluster of Desert Rose crystals, Chihuahua, Mexico.
Credit: CrystalMiner

Some even form large clusters comprised of many small rosette crystals which are the color of sand and usually brown. In order for gypsum rosettes to form they must have an arid environment, a large source of CaSO₄(calcium sulfate), and a seasonal fluctuation of water. In terms of geological time gypsum rosettes form very rapidly in that they form in tens to hundreds of years. This would explain their abundance across the world.

How Do Desert Rose Form

Desert roses form when water evaporates from a shallow salt basin. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind dissolved minerals, such as gypsum or baryte. These minerals then crystallize into thin, blade-like crystals. The crystals grow in a circular pattern around sand grains, which are trapped in the center of the formation.

There are two typical forms of rosettes found
  • In more shallow regions is an amber colored compact ball of intergrown crystals with small, thin blades pointing out from the core seems to be the standard.. Sometimes large transparent amber blades protrude out of this core producing spectacular specimens.

  • In deeper layers, the crystals in the rosette are larger, more distinct and blocky. The color in these specimens are typically yellow, but can also be colorless. Large blades protruding from these rosettes are also blocky.

In both forms, some of the large blades may have clay or a rock included. All the crystals are fluorescent and phosphorescent, glowing a pale white under ultraviolet light.

Where Are Desert Rose Crystals Found

The rosette crystal habit tends to occur when the crystals form in arid sandy conditions, such as the evaporation of a shallow salt basin. The crystals form a circular array of flat plates, giving the rock a shape similar to a rose blossom. 

Desert roses are found in arid regions around the world, including the Sahara Desert, the Namib Desert, and the Mojave Desert. The largest desert roses in the world are found in the Sahara Desert, where they can grow up to several feet in diameter.

Size and Color of Desert Rose Crystals

Desert roses can vary in size from a few centimeters to several inches in diameter. The color of a desert rose can also vary depending on the type of mineral that it is made of. Gypsum roses are typically white or colorless, while baryte roses can be white, yellow, or brown.

Desert Rose Types, Uses, and Where Are Desert Roses Found?
Large Baryte Desert Rose crystal cluster from Tunisia.
Photo: Past Impressions Crystal
Gypsum Rosettes
Gypsum Rosettes Crystals from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Credit: GEODE
desert rose cluster
Large selenite desert rose cluster from Mexico

What Are the Uses of Desert Rose Crystals

Desert roses are often used as decorative objects. They can also be used as a source of gypsum or baryte. Some people also believe that desert roses have healing properties.

Facts About Desert Rose Crystals

  • The largest desert rose ever found was 10 inches in diameter.
  • Desert roses can take hundreds of years to form.
  • Desert roses are sometimes called "sand roses" or "selenite roses."
  • Desert roses are said to bring good luck and prosperity.

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