The Petrified Forest of Lesvos

A long, long time ago… in August 2003, I holidayed with my family on the Greek island of Lesvos (or Lesbos). One day during our stay we paid a visit to the Petrified Forest of Lesvos, which just so happens to be the largest petrified forest in the world, covering as it does an area of several thousand hectares. The forest was declared a Protected Natural Monument in 1985; it is also designated as a European and Global Geopark.

Fifteen to twenty million years ago, a sub-tropical forest flourished on the north-western part of the island. But this lush ecosystem was suddenly entombed completely by pyroclastic material produced by volcanic activity in the northern Aegean Sea. This rapid burial coupled with the hydrothermic circulation of heavily silicated fluids within the sediment ensured that some plant tissues were perfectly fossilised. Inorganic matter replaced organic matter practically molecule for molecule in a process known as petrification. As a result the internal structures of many trees have survived, perfectly preserved, to the present time. Annual growth rings and even individual cells can still be seen clearly today, and several large trunks remain standing upright on their intact roots.

It’s hard to imagine a forest ever existing in such a dry and barren landscape.

This stump is seen from another angle in the photo below:

There’s me, aged seventeen, taking photos with a film camera. How old-fashioned!

Disclaimer: these photos were taken by my father with an early digital camera, the Fuji FinePix 1300. It was capable of capturing a whopping 1.3 megapixels.

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Some of the information in this post was taken from the Petrified Forest of Lesvos pages on the ‘Global Network of National Geoparks’ site. Further information can be found at the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest site.

Posted in Holidays and field trips

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