The Oldest Forest in the World is from the Age of Dinosaurs—and It’s near New York City

It’s funny to think that the world’s oldest forest is just a two hour drive from the bustling streets of New York City. The forest was found at the bottom of a quarry, in Cairo, New York, close to the Catskill Mountain range.

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Scientists have been aware of this ancient forest for some time now, but its specific age was a mystery until recently. 

Christopher Berry, a paleobotanist from Cardiff University, described the experience to the BBC: “You are walking through the roots of ancient trees. Standing on the quarry surface we can reconstruct the living forest around us in our imagination.”

It is thought to be older than the Amazon Rainforest. Back in prehistoric times, the extensive site would have spread across New York all the way to Pennsylvania. 

This video shows the fossil forest site, which contains some 385-million-year-old tree root systems. 

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Paleobotanists from Cardiff University in Wales, U.K, and University of Binghamton in New York, have conducted research studying the trees and fossils in the area to determine the age of the forest, since 2009. Prior to this discovery, they were also researching another ancient forest in Gilboa, New York, about 25 miles away. It is thought that the Cairo forest is 2 – 3 million years older than this site.   

Image by Mali Mae

One of the key discoveries is the presence of Archaeopteris, an ancient species of tree. It has large wooden roots and leafy branches. 

These ancient trees reproduce by spreading spores like fungi rather than releasing seeds that grow into trees. Evidence of these trees, as well as some ferns, were a big clue into the age of the forest, which is now considered to be the world’s oldest.