The petrified forest is an area of open veld scattered with petrified tree trunks up to 34m long and 6m in circumference, which are estimated to be around 260 million years old. The original trees belonged to an ancient group of cone-bearing plants that are known as Gymnospermae, which includes such modern plants as conifers, cycads and welwitschias. Because of the lack of root or branch remnants, it’s thought that the trunks were transported to the site in a flood.
About 50 individual trees are visible, some half buried in sandstone and many perfectly petrified in silica – complete with bark and tree rings. In 1950, after souvenir hunters had begun to take their toll, the site was declared a national monument, and it’s now strictly forbidden to carry off even a small scrap of petrified wood. Guides are compulsory.
The Petrified Forest, signposted ‘Versteende Woud’, lies 40km west of Khorixas on the C39.