Fossilized: Thailand is not a country we associate with ancient forests, like the giant redwoods that dot the landscape near Big Sur, California. Gorgeous, white sand beaches and tropical temperatures are what spring to mind when imagining Thailand.
At one time, however, there were indeed trees in Thailand that rivalled those on America’s west coast in both width and height.
They would have risen approximately 330 feet high, as if they were reaching up to receive nourishing sunlight.
Petrified tree trunks were found in 2013 by a villager at Ban Kat district, in Tak Province. The person responsible for the discovery wisely contact conservation authorities, who promptly went to the site to examine the massive trunk.
Removing the 237 foot, fossilized trunk from where it was wedged into the earth was a challenge, but a team of experts used ground penetrating radar to first inspect the tree, and did manage to extract it without causing any damage.
In an article published in 2013 in Live Science, a drawing of the tree as it would have been 800,000 year ago is shown beside one of a giraffe.
The animal, famous for its height and long neck, is utterly dwarfed by the tree, offering a vivid illustration of just how big this species was all those centuries ago.
Other fossil trees have been found elsewhere in Thailand as well, but the trunk found eight years ago is the longest one of its type anywhere in the world.
Although the discovery was made quite some time ago now, no find since has beaten this tree fossil for length of unbroken tree trunk. That doesn’t mean, however, that there are not other places that have incredible fossils similar to the one in Thailand on display in conservation areas in varying parts of the world.
For example, the Lesbos Petrified Forest on the island of the same name in Greece has 150 foot long logs in its collection. The site has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is hugely popular with visitors to the Greek Islands and citizens, too. This location is home to the longest fallen tree trunk ever found anywhere in the world.
Another incredible place to see ancient fossilized trees is the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, in the United States.
Visitors spend a few hours or an entire day touring the collection of tree fossils, as well as hiking groomed trails, visiting the site of an ancient town, and many other activities that serve both entertainment and educational purposes. While many of the plants on display are indeed fossils, the park also offers tours of, and lectures on, living flora and fauna that thrive in the desert conditions.
Trees in Thailand today don’t grow past 200 feet. The tallest one recorded in the last decade is a Krabak tree, a type of tropical oak. Another curious aspect of the discovery, experts say, is that while the tree must have been extremely tall, it was not related to the tall trees of today, like sequoias. It may be related to a species known as Koompassia Elegans, trees that belong to the same family as beans, peas, and black locust trees.
It is a curious contradiction that this tree trunk, once hundreds of feet tall and looking more like the tall trees of America’s west coast, has nothing, genetically speaking, in common with them.
The redwoods we associate with California can grow to be 425 feet tall, but that’s where the similarity to the discovery in Thailand ends.
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Like so many things in nature, the look of this discovery was deceiving, until experts arrived to delve deeply into its history, and explained the science behind its towering height.