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MissAusten's avatar

What could cause bright green flames in a campfire?

Asked by MissAusten (16142points) August 13th, 2010

Tonight we built a campfire for making s’mores, and all of the wood for the fire came from branches picked up in the yard. I helped the kids collect it, so I know there was nothing other than tree branches. By the time we saw the green flames, the newspaper we’d used to start the fire had completely burned down. I read that copper can cause green flames, but don’t know how copper could be on tree branches. What else could have caused the green flames?

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14 Answers

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

“Electrons get excited and pushed to higher energy levels by the heat energy. When they fall back down, they give off photons of light of different colors, based upon how far they fall. Different temperatures cause electrons to jump to different levels.”

from here

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Have the trees been sprayed for insects? Some of these insecticides contain copper compounds like copper sulfate.

MissAusten's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land No, no insecticides or other chemicals, unless they could have blown into our yard from neighboring areas. We only have one close neighbor, and I don’t think they’ve sprayed anything. However, our yard also borders school property and maybe they’ve used something. Thinking the chemicals could have traveled that far is a little disturbing.

Cruiser's avatar

Were any of the branches cedar?? Cedar gives off amazing colors!! I recall brilliant greens and reds with cedar bushes and tree branches I would burn.

filmfann's avatar

Pine cones can do this as well.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Kayak8's avatar

I have seen foxfire do this too (not sure where you are located but I have found it in several states). It’s from a fungus.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
cazzie's avatar

Roach killer or ant killer…. Boric Acid usually makes the flames green. Very common substance. If you were burning any wood that had some sort of treatment to stop termites or ants? Boric acid is not terribly harmful to us unless we’re exposed to it in pretty large amounts over long periods of time. I don’t suggest buying any personal care products for kids under 12 that contain it.

Trillian's avatar

My dad used to toss in either manganese or magnesium. He worked at a fabricating plant, so I guess that’s how he got the stuff. I think that he also had some salts like chloride or something,
They made pretty blues and violets.
It is blowin’ up a storm here. I’m getting off.Evn if heavy metals are the cause, I can’t imagine how they got into the wood.
I really liked @rpmpseudonym‘s answer. That’s a cool concept.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@cazzie is right, boron burns green, like copper.

MissAusten's avatar

Thanks for all the ideas! Next time we build a fire, we’ll have to pay attention to what’s on the branches we use. My kids tried to recreate the green flames by adding sticks coated with pine sap and branches covered with fungus, but it wasn’t either of those two things. We have oak, dogwood, and birch trees in our yard, plus some evergreens and pine trees around the property line.

It makes me want to do s’mores again very soon just to see if we can somehow make the flames green again!

Tracyc13's avatar

We had the same thing happen to us tonight with bright green flames in a campfire we made using wood gathered from fallen branches in the woods around our cabin in the Catskills. It looked like we through some crazy “magic” leprechaun dust in there! We can’t imagine that any trees in the woods were treated for ants!
Is there anything in nature or a certain type of wood that burns with green (& also turqioise) flames?

alemke's avatar

We are camping in Wawona, Yosemite Nat’l Park. Our fire here burns with a bright green hue, below the golden tips of the flames, above the blue of the hotter part that is near the log. We are burning well seasoned fir and Ponderosa logs cut last year. There are no man-made chemicals in the firepit at all. Your answers are very interesting, but can’t explain our green flames. Maybe it is leprechauns!

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