Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 10, 2018

Stalactites and stalagmites

I am always confused about the difference between stalactites and stalagmites, which one goes up and which one down. I looked it up…again.

The most common stalactites are a type of formation that hangs from the ceiling of caves. They form through the deposition of calcium carbonate and other minerals. The solution slowly travels through the rock until it reaches the edge and then drips down.

Stalagmites rise from the floor of the cave as the mineral filled water drips from above.

We were able to renew our acquaintance with these amazing structures in Mammoth Cave in Western Australia. The region from Busselton to Augusta is one of Australia’s most cave-rich areas. Mammoth Cave is on the aptly named Caves Road in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.

Come for a walk through the cave. It is well named. It is huge…500 metres long and 30 metres deep. Steps lead down into the cave and a timber path winds through it. It is well lit to enable the stunning structures to be seen.

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave

The path eventually leads to the 170 steps that take you out of the cave into the sunlight and the beautiful Marri forest.

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave

A kookaburra sat waiting on a high vantage point for a meal to appear.

Mammoth Cave

More steps….

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave is stunning. Don’t miss it if you are able to drag yourselves away from the many wineries and restaurants in the area.





  1. up or down? that has always confused me too!

    • I will probably forget before I visit another cave.

      • haha πŸ™‚

  2. You’re certainly having a great tour of my home state.

    • We had a great time in WA. We will return.

  3. The way we learned in school to remember:
    Stalagmites’might’ reach the top of the cave if they keep getting taller,
    Stalactites better hold on ‘tight’ to the ceiling of the cave so that they don’t come crashing down.
    Not sure if this wordplay might help you, but it’s always helped me remember which is which.

    • I recall hearing that in the distant past. I will try to remember it.

  4. I’ve always remembered the difference the someway Laura does. Stalagtites have to hold on tight to not fall down.

    • It’s a good trick to remember the difference.

  5. Great photos Deb. It is certainly worth a visit to one of the caves in the area.

    • It is a truly interesting thing to do.

  6. yes I echo the other comments, I too learnt in school the little saying “Stalactites hang tightly to the ceiling and stalagmites, might grow up to meet the ceiling” πŸ˜‰

    • I’m etching it into my brain.

      • Lets hope it calcifies there for good! chortle πŸ˜‰

  7. When I visited the Jenolan Caves as a child – almost 70 years ago! – our guide told us that stalaCtites grow from the Ceiling and stalaGmites grow from the Ground. I’ve never forgotten. What a great teacher that guide was!

    • …another great way to remember. I will have no excuse in the future.

  8. Fabulous photos – I’m going to suggest to Peter that we try to get there maybe next September or October. I remember which is which by thinking that stalactite has a ‘c’ like ‘ceiling’ and stalagmite has a ‘g’ like ‘ground’.

    • You and Peter will love the area. There is much to see and do.

  9. Remember an easy way someone told me about in High School….stalactites has a β€œc” which reminds you that it comes from the ceiling! Learned it decades ago and never forgot it. Love your blog. We will be in Bagni di Lucca for three months this summer. Looking forward to it. Can’t wait.

    • I will be in BdL from late February until early June. We might see each other.

  10. Deb,
    A way to remember…
    β€˜Little mites grow up’ so……stalagmites are the ones going up!

    • I think I will definitely remember in the future.

  11. Beautiful photos!

  12. A stalactite is a type of formation that hangs from the ceiling of caves, hot springs, or manmade structures such as bridges and mines.

    A stalagmite is a type of rock formation that rises from the floor of a cave due to the accumulation of material deposited on the floor from ceiling drippings.


    Where mineralized water or another transmitting liquid drips from a cave ceiling. Where mineralized water or another transmitting liquid drops onto a cave floor.


    From ceiling, downwards

    From ground, upwards


    Limestone, lava, ice, amberat, minerals, mud, peat, pitch, sand, sinter or concrete

    Limestone, lava, ice, amberat, minerals, mud, peat, pitch, sand, sinter or concrete


    From the Greek word “stalaktos,” which means ‘that which drips.’

    From the Greek word for “stalagma, ” which means ‘a drop’ or ‘dropping.

    • Lots of information, thank you.

      • You’re welcome πŸ™‚ I’m glad you appreciates my comment.

  13. Beautiful photos and stunning formations in the cave! I am claustrophobic and will let others do the exploring for me. πŸ˜‰

    • The cave is quite big and fairly open. You might be OK.

  14. I’ve been to the Jenolan Caves many years ago – the formations are quite stunning

    • I went there as a child and remember being impressed.

  15. here’s my help in recognising which is which; “M” is for mountain ( they go up) and “T” is for tumbling ( falling down). It comes from Latin most likely.
    I am hoping to see you in 2018! Have a good year! Sondra

    • We will be in Italy from February until June. You are welcome.

  16. Great photos, all those stairs! Keep you fit.

    • I only climbed those steps once. I need to do it every day!

  17. ” -tites from the top.” I’ve never forgotten since hearing that phrase in decades past.

  18. Lovely pics! I can’t remember the difference between the two as well. Someone told me a mnemonic to remember them but I also can’t remember that πŸ˜›

  19. Indeed a grand show.

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