World's Earliest Forest Discovered, Scientists Say

Scientists found the world's oldest fossilized woodland on South West England's coastal cliffs.It was found on steep sandstone outcrops in Minehead, Somerset, near Butlin's holiday camp.

According to scientists from the universities of Cambridge and Cardiff, these are the earliest fossilized trees ever discovered in the United Kingdom and the oldest known forest on the planet.

Calamophyton trees resemble palms. The highest arborivorous "prototypes" were 2–4 meters tall. The researchers found plant remains, debris, petrified tree trunks, and root systems.

They formed landscapes and stabilized riverbanks and beaches hundreds of millions of years ago. "After thirty years of studying this species of tree worldwide, I knew immediately what they were when I saw images of the tree trunks," stated Cardiff School of Earth author Mr. Christopher Berry.

"I was astounded by their proximity to home." See these trees in their original locations for the most enlightening revelation. Dr. Paul Kenrick, a Natural History Museum plant fossil expert who was not involved in the research, thought these plant cohabitation recommendations were crucial.

From 419 to 358 million years ago, life expanded most on land in the Hangman Sandstone Formation in Devon and Somerset beaches. Devon is named after sea stones geologists found off the coast that symbolize the era.

The researchers found remains of identical trees in Germany and Belgium, not England. "This was a peculiar forest; it was unlike any forest you would encounter today," said Cambridge Earth Sciences Professor Neil Davies, the study's first author.

"There wasn't any undergrowth to speak of and grass hadn't yet appeared, but there were lots of twigs dropped by these densely-packed trees, which had a big effect on the landscape."

Dr. Kenrick of the Natural History Museum said the trees were different from today's. Dicksonia antarctica, an Australasian decorative tree fern grown in Britain, may represent a modern counterpart.

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