The growth surfaces of most stalactites are interpreted as numerous syntaxial overgrowth crystallites. These coalesce immediately behind the growth surface, often trapping portions of the water film as fluid-filled cavities. The fluid inclusions represent former inter-crystallite spaces and characterize the widely misinterpreted “growth ring”. Complete crystallite coalescence generates inclusions-free calcite, whereas inhibition of lateral coalescence of the overgrowth crystallites generates layers of acicular calcite. It is generally only during periods of cave flooding that the crystallites merge and overgrow each other and precipitation eventually occurs upon large, planar crystal faces. Stalactitic carbonate growth is secondary, from a multi-crystalline precursor that is, in a sense, a large skeletal crystal. The precursor crystallites are in lattice continuity with the substrate and with adjacent crystallites. Crystal boundaries arise from lateral lattice mismatch on the curved growth surface. It is not competitive growth as the secondary columnar crystals do not interfere with each other.
Broughton, Paul L..
Secondary origin of the radial fabric in stalactitic carbonate.
International Journal of Speleology,
Available at: http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/ijs/vol13/iss1/4