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Petrified Forest

   

Petrified Forest

Situated 42km west of Khorixas, the Petrified Forest exists in an old river channel and is described as ‘an occurrence of fossilized trees’. It is a large assemblage of petrified tree trunks scattered over an area of approximately 300m by 800m. This petrified wood, app. 260 million years old, is the result of a process called solidification, whereby huge tree trunks were first embedded in sand deposits and thus cut off from oxygen. Silicic acids then replaced the original wooden material on molecular level, thereby retaining the identical organic patterns, but replacing them gradually with quartz minerals. Research has shown that the original trees belonged to at least four different species of

Gymnospermae, or cone-bearing plants which flourished between 200 – 300 million years ago. It is illegal and prohibited to remove any, even the smallest piece of petrified wood from this area. Namibia’s unique heraldic plant, the Welwitschia mirabilis grows alongside the petrified wooden tree trunks, thereby adding a living fossil to the petrified one in a unique combination.

It is neither a forest in the true sense of the word and neither did any of the trees 'turn to stone'. In prehistoric times huge tree trunks were washed down a river and deposited in alluvial sands. As they were isolated from any air, a process known as digenesis took place and as a result sand that came under pressure through sedimentation turned into sandstone. The tree trunks then underwent another process known as silicification which causes liquids that seep into the wood causes the organic materials of the wood to dissolve and be replaced by silicic acid, fossilizing the wood by transforming it into stone.

The Petrified Forest was proclaimed a national monument on 1st March 1950.

   
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