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12/20/2014 08:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Hawaii's Lava Trees Are A Haunting Natural Wonder

Tucked just east of the massive Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii is a spooky little forest called the Lava Tree State Monument -- a jungle gateway to Middle Earth where you can find a cluster of spooky stumps known as lava trees.

What the heck is a lava tree, you ask?

Well, when a particular kind of fast-moving lava meets a cool, moisture-rich tree, the base of the tree will cool the 2,000ºF lava in such a way that it insulates the tree from the rest of the flowing lava, rather than immediately gobbling it up. Eventually, the tree will burn away or bake into charcoal, but if the lava flowing around the tree clears out of the area or drains into a crack, a lumpy column of vertical lava remains.

Even crazier, the tops of the lava trees represent the former height of the lava flow, which is several meters tall in some cases.

The formations at Lava Tree State Monument are the product of a 1790 eruption (Hawaii's deadliest known eruption), when Kilauea, the world's most active volcano, sent lava through an ohia forest.

See what a ghost of a tree looks like in the photos below:

lava tree forest

lava tree 2

lava tree state park

inside lava tree

lava tree far

lava trees back

lava tree close

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