Skip to Content

What in nature is naturally white?

What in nature is naturally white?

Many things in nature naturally display the color white. White is considered a color of purity, cleanliness, and innocence. When we see the white of a cloud, snow, or swan, it gives off a peaceful, calming feeling. The natural white color can come from a few different sources. Certain natural materials like minerals, rocks, shells, and animal features exhibit an inherant whiteness. The white coloration serves different purposes in the natural world, often to blend in with snowy environments or reflect sunlight. Discover some of the most prominent examples of things that are naturally white in nature below.

Minerals and Rocks

A variety of minerals and rocks found in nature display a white color. Some of the most common naturally white rocks and minerals include:

– Quartz – One of the most abundant minerals on Earth. Made of silicon and oxygen. Varieties like milky quartz exhibit a snowy white color.

– Calcite – A carbonate mineral made of calcium carbonate. Calcite comes in many colors like orange, yellow, and purple, but white is most common.

– Gypsum – A soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate. It has been used as a white pigment.

– Marble – Metamorphic rock formed from limestone. Marble is usually white with veins of mineral impurities colorizing it.

– Chalk – Soft limestone comprised of calcium carbonate. Formed from ancient marine organisms. Chalk cliffs like The White Cliffs of Dover exhibit bright white coloration.

– Salt – Halite, or rock salt, forms cubic crystals, usually in the color white. It’s made of sodium chloride.

Mineral/Rock Composition
Quartz Silicon dioxide
Calcite Calcium carbonate
Gypsum Calcium sulfate dihydrate
Marble Metamorphosed limestone
Chalk Calcium carbonate
Salt Sodium chloride

The white color of these geological materials stems from their chemical makeup. Certain elements lend a white appearance when bonded together in crystalline structures. These whitish minerals stand out brightly compared to other rocks.

Shells and Coral

Many mollusks, crustaceans, and anthozoans produce shells and exoskeletons that appear white in coloration. Some examples include:

– Abalone – Marine snails with iridescent inner shells, valued as pearls, lining the inside of their shells. Their shells exhibit white, pink, red, green, and blue tones.

– Conch – Gastropod mollusks like the Queen Conch have large spiral shells. Conch shells tend to be white or pink on the outside with a colorfully lined interior.

– Crab – Crustaceans like the Atlantic Ghost Crab have a whitish exoskeleton that helps them camouflage into sandy beaches.

– Coral – Coral polyps slowly build colonies out of calcium carbonate. Most shallow reef-building corals appear white or tan.

– Clam – Bivalves like the Quahog and Geoduck clam protect themselves with two-part shells. Their shells are usually white, tan, or grey.

– Oyster – Oysters grow pearlescent inner shells lined with nacre. Their outer shell is off-white, gray, or tan.

Animal Shell Material
Abalone Calcium carbonate
Conch Calcium carbonate
Crab Chitin
Coral Calcium carbonate
Clam Calcium carbonate
Oyster Calcium carbonate

The shells and exoskeletons gain their white appearance from calcium carbonate and chitin. These materials form crystalline structures that reflect light, giving off a glistening white look, especially on their inner nacreous layers. The white color helps the animals blend into sandy ocean floors.

Arctic and Snow Animals

Many animals native to icy, snowbound regions of the planet evolve white coats and plumage as camouflage. Whiteness helps them blend into the snow and avoid predators. Some examples of naturally white arctic animals include:

– Polar Bear – Polar bears have transparent and hollow guard hairs that reflect visible light, giving them a whitish appearance. This provides camouflage when hunting seals on the ice.

– Arctic Fox – During winter, arctic foxes grow thick white fur coats to mimic the snow and avoid predators like wolves. Their fur even grows white footpads for traction.

– Ptarmigan – These birds molt into pure white winter plumage. Even their feet grow feathers to keep them warm and blend them into the snow.

– Arctic Hare – Also known as polar rabbits, arctic hares grow white fur coats during winter months for warmth and camouflage.

– Beluga Whale – While young belugas are blue-grey, adults develop brilliant white skin and are sometimes referred to as the “white whale.”

– Kermode Bear – A subspecies of black bear with a recessive gene causing about 10% to be all white. These “spirit bears” are endemic to British Columbia.

Animal Adaptation
Polar Bear Transparent hollow guard hairs
Arctic Fox Thick white winter fur
Ptarmigan White winter plumage
Arctic Hare White winter fur
Beluga Whale White skin
Kermode Bear Recessive gene for white fur

These animals rely on whiteness as a crucial adaptation for frigid environments. Mimicking the snow helps them hunt, hide from predators, regulate body temperature, and communicate with others of their species.

White Blossoms

Many flowering plants produce white petalled blossoms. These often serve to attract pollinators. Some naturally white flowers include:

– Calla Lily – Indigenous to South Africa, the calla lily has a large white spathe and spadix.

– Gardenia – These shiny leaved shrubs produce fragrant white blossoms used in perfumes and leis.

– Magnolia – Magnolia trees and shrubs bloom huge white flowers that appear before their leaves emerge.

– Frangipani – With star-shaped white flowers, these plumed trees are also called plumeria.

– Lily of the Valley – Sweetly scented, bell shaped white flowers bloom on stalks above these woodland plants.

– White Rose – Roses come in every color, but the smooth, elegant white rose is a classic.

Flower Genus
Calla Lily Zantedeschia
Gardenia Gardenia
Magnolia Magnolia
Frangipani Plumeria
Lily of the Valley Convallaria
White Rose Rosa

Their bright white petals and noticeable scents attract bees, birds, bats, and butterflies to aid in pollination. They signal purity and springtime rebirth with their luminous white blossoms.


Whiteness plays an important role across the natural world. White minerals lend rocks their coloration based on chemical composition. The shells and coral of sea creatures gain pearly hues from calcium carbonate. Arctic animals adopt white plumage and fur to camouflage themselves in snowy climes. Flowers produce white blossoms that beckon pollinators with their vivid color. Whether serving a functional purpose or simply brightening the landscape, white stands out as an iconic natural color, conveying peacefulness and light. Discovering examples of whiteness in the natural world reveals insightful adaptations and breathtaking beauty.