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Finally, calcium oxalates serve as a reserve of carbon dioxide.
Carbon, nitrogen, and other major nutrient elements comprise less than 5%, and commonly less than 1%, of phytolith material by mass.
These elements are present in the living cells in which the silica concretions form, so traces are retained in the phytoliths.
This biological mechanism does not appear to be limited to specific plant structures, as some plants have been found with silica in their reproductive and sub-surface organs.
Phytoliths are composed mainly of noncrystalline silicon dioxide, and about 4% to 9% of their mass is water.
Because they are made of the inorganic substances silica or calcium oxalate, phytoliths don't decay with the rest of the plant and can survive in conditions that would destroy organic residues.