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More ancient trees found on Lesvos

- by Andy Cornish

Visitors to the site of a petrified forest on Lesvos may soon have new exhibits to wonder at after new examples of fossilised tree trunks were unearthed.

Workmen on the north Aegean island of Lesvos were constructing a new road between the villages of Kalloni and Sigri when they came across traces of tree trunks that first grew millions of years ago.

Scientists at the Natural History Museum for the Lesvos Petrified Forest were alerted to the finds and have carried out an extensive search of the roadworks.

They say that the area has a large number of fossilised tree trunks, both of coniferous trees such as cypress and pine and of flowering trees like oak and laurel.

The existing petrified forest of Lesvos is a popular tourist attraction that is the largest such site in Europe and of international scientific significance.

The forested hillsides of south-west Lesvos were destroyed around 20 million years ago when Mount Ordymnos erupted and buried the trees and plants under several metres of volcanic ash.

Petrified trees cover the site, with some specimens in a remarkable state of preservation. Fruits, leaves and branches can be clearly seen.

The latest finds include specimens of cinnamon and coconut palms which will help confirm theories that the area was once an extensive sub-tropical forest before being buried in volcanic ash.

These and other discoveries have gone on show at the award-winning forest museum in Sigri which also features displays of the most important finds and a history of the site.

The Petrified Forest of Lesvos was declared the top European Geopark for 2011-2014 and is in line to be included in UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.

Since 2004, the forest has been part of UNESCO's World Geoparks Network, bringing it worldwide recognition and making it a popular tourist destination for holidaymakers visiting Lesvos.

It is one of four official geoparks in Greece along with the Natural Park of Psiloritis in Crete, the Helms Park of Vouraikos in the Peloponnese, and the Hairy-Aoos Park in Epirus.

The Petrified Forest of Lesvos is huge and is enclosed by the villages of Eressos, Antissa and Sigri. It is managed by the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest which has a permanent exhibition of the fossil remains of more than 40 different species.