The Petrified Forest of Lesvos is a rare petrified forest ecosystem made up of large concentrations of fossilized trees and animals which were covered by volcanic material and petrified in place 18 million years ago.
Layers of volcanic ash revealed lying and standing fossilized trees, branches, roots, seeds and leaves as well as fossilized animal teeth.
Important concentrations of fossilized remains can also be found in the marine area west of Lesvos island as well as along the coast.
The area of the Petrified Forest is further characterized by impressive volcanic geosites, witnesses of the intense volcanic activity during Miocene. Lesvos island for this reason could be characterized as a window on the geohistoric development of the Aegean over the last 20 million years.
A Presidential decree (443/1985) declared the Petrified Forest of Lesvos as a protected national monument of Nature. The protected area of the Petrified Forest of Lesvos was a founding member of the European Geoparks Network in 2000 and it was included in the Global Geoparks Network by UNESCO in 2004.
In areas with large concentrations of fossils open air visitor’s parks are established.
Every large concentration of fossil trees or single fossil trunk in the whole protected area of the Petrified Forest is protected by law. Collection, removal and or damage of the fossils is strictly prohibited. Transgressors will be prosecuted on the strength of the L.D. 996/71 and the Lesvos Forest Service regulations.
Sigri Petrified Forest Park
The Sigri Park covers an area of 30.000m2 and located in the area next to the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest in Sigri village. It includes important plant fossils and impressive samples of the volcanic rocks that cover the broader area.
The park is an excellent example of a geotope because of its rarity and the great scientific worth of its plant fossils which contain information not only about the volcanic rock, but also about the geological development of the region.
While walking along the pathways which have been carved out of the hillside, visitors can admire the most valuable finds within the park which are the petrified tree root systems. Root systems of numerous trees have been uncovered well-preserved and in a full stage of development. These roots serve as proof that the trees were petrified in situ. Impressive standing coniferous and angiosperm trunks (Pinoxylon paradoxum, Pinoxylon sp., Pinus sp.) emerging from the layers of volcanic ash and displaying their varied coloration can also be viewed. Sections of a number of fallen petrified trunks have been transferred to the park facilities.
Plaka Petrified Forest Park
The Plaka Park was created by the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest and covers an area of 70.000m2 in the small peninsula of Plaka. It is an important fossil-rich area.
In the two parts of the Park important plant fossils mainly root systems and lower parts of trunks, have been revealed, creating a geotope of rare natural beauty.
In the Plaka Park, pines and a large variety of fruit bearing plants (angiosperms), which do not appear with such diversity in any other inland site, compose the vegetation of Lesvos 20 million years ago. More specifically, fossilized plants that correspond to modern pine (Pinoxylon and Pinus), laurel and cinnamon plants (Daphnogene polymorpha, Cinnamonum polymorphum, Laurinoxylon), cottonwood (Populoxylon), plane tree (Platanoxylon) and Palmae (Palmoxylon) were found.
Today, 46 excavation sites are accessible to visitors. Most of the fossilized trunks are still standing in their original location. Among the finds is the giant petrified trunk with a perimeter of 13.7m which, according to the international literature, is the largest standing fossilized trunk in the world. In the marine area the visitor can also find an impressive lying trunk with a length of 14m.
Nissiopi Petrified Forest Park
The Nissiopi islet, on the western side of the island of Lesvos, is a highly valuable part of the Petrified Forest of Lesvos with regards to its environmental and educational significance.
The Marine Petrified Forest Park of Nissiopi is the first marine fossil park in Greece, created by the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest. Visitors to the park can tour both the terrestrial fossils sites across organized footpaths as well as the marine area around Nissiopi with a special glass bottom boat and have a unique experience. The Natural History Museum of Lesvos Petrified Forest organizes cruises and visits during summer period.
The terrestrial part of the park hosts 44 impressive fossil sites containing petrified trunks of fruit trees and conifers, still standing upright in their natural growing positions or lying down, having been deposited on site by flows of volcanic material.
One of the most outstanding excavation finds so far is an impressive giant sequoia tree trunk, discovered in its natural position and reaching a total length of 17.20m and a diameter at the base of 1.70m. Also fascinating are the fossil sites with petrified logs lodged in different rock horizons.
Due to coastal erosion of rocks in the area, visitors can observe various volcanic and tectonic geosites as well as coastal landforms existing in Nissiopi’s coastal zone.
The dozens of faults visible on the islet’s surface and on its steep coastline attest to the intense east-west tectonic fault activity in the region in the recent geological past, which resulted in the separation of the islet from the rest of Lesvos.
The Nissiopi Park hosts a rich flora and fauna with recordings of 62 species of birds, 3 species of mammals, 3 species of reptiles, insects from about ten different classes and 37 families, spiders of 8 families and other invertebrates. Among the animals worth noting is the presence of birds such as the Falcon, the Ruddy Shelduck, Eurasian Stone-Curlew, Lesser Kestrel and a great colony of common gulls (Herring gull).
The abundant benthic flora and fauna is characterized by the dominance of Posidonia seagrass beds and the presence of important types of bio-communities like coral and “forests” of the Cystoseirabrown algae.