The individual nodules of cave popcorn range in size from 5 to 20 mm and may be decorated by other speleothems, especially aragonite needles or frostwork. The nodules tend to grow in clusters on bedrock or the sides of other speleothems. These clusters may terminate suddenly in either an upward or downward direction, forming a stratographic layer. When they terminate in a downward direction, they may appear as flat bottomed formations known as trays.
Cave popcorn can form by precipitation. Water seeping through limestone walls or splashing onto them leaves deposits when CO2 loss causes its minerals to precipitate. When formed in this way, the resultant nodules have the characteristics of small balls of flowstone.
Cave popcorn can also form by evaporation in which case it is chalky and white like edible popcorn. In the right conditions, evaporative cave popcorn may grow on the windward side of the surface to which it is attached or appear on the edges of projecting surfaces.
On manmade structures (outside the cave environment)
Popcorn can also occur on concrete structures outside the cave environment; these are classified as calthemite coralloids. Calthemite coralloids also occur in "artificial caves" such as mines or railway or vehicle tunnels were there is a source of lime, mortar or cement from which the calcium ions can be leached.
Coralloids can form by a number of different methods in caves; however, on concrete the most common form is created when a hyperalkaline solution seeps from fine cracks in concrete. Due to solution evaporation, deposition of calcium carbonate occurs before any drop can form. The resulting coralloids are small and chalky with a cauliflower appearance.
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