Mozambique’s Tete Fossil Forest is the Largest Discovered in Africa.

Fossil Coast’s Geo Travel blog explores the Tete Province Fossil Forest of Mozambique the most extensive area of Late Permian Conifers as well as Cycads and Ferns unearthed in Africa. The Tete Province Fossil Forest (15° 43' 31'' S 032° 18' 15'' E) or Mágoè Fossil Forest is a 1,482 Km2 area of petrified wood with some trunks reaching upwards of 25 meters in length.


Unravelling Frond of a Fern - Image by Michael Gaida
Unravelling Frond of a Fern - Image by Michael Gaida

In 2022 the Tete Province Fossil Forest was named among the “First 100 Geological Heritage Sites” designated by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS). The Tete Fossil Forest is a recent discovery that extends for more than 75Km and tells a story of the palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic conditions of forests during the Permian Period (298.9 - 252.2 million years ago). Other smaller Late Permian fossil forests can be found in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.



The Permian Period was the last of the six periods of the Paleozoic Era (meaning "ancient life") preceded by the Carboniferous Period and succeeded by the Triassic Period and the start of the Mesozoic Era known as the "Age of Reptiles".



The Tete Fossil Forest existed before the Permian - Triassic (P-T) Mass Extinction Event which is also described as the "Great Dying". During the last, 15 million years of the Late Permian Period on average over 90% percent of the planet's species on land and in the seas died including nearly all of the trees.


Example of Fossilised Wood
Example of Fossilised Wood

The Tete Province is among the hottest places in Mozambique. This part of Africa has a hot tropical climate with maximum annual average temperatures of around 32°C and a maximum rainfall of 180 mm.


The province's capital city of Tete is located on the banks of the Zambezi River approximately 125 kilometers upstream from the Cahora Bassa arch dam and hydroelectric facility on Lake Cahora Bassa Africa's fourth-largest artificial lake.


Cahora Bassa arch dam and hydroelectric facility on Lake Cahora - Image by Teresa Cotrim
Cahora Bassa arch dam and hydroelectric facility on Lake Cahora - Image by Teresa Cotrim

The landscape of the Tete province has the plateaus of Maravia-Angónia in the north and the plains of the mountainous Zambezi valley to the south.



Much of Tete’s wildlife lives within a vast region of tropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands known as the Miombo woodlands. These woodlands cover much of central and southern Africa and provide food and shelter to antelopes, giraffes, rhinos, lions, and some of the largest populations of elephants.


Sadly, this area is under threat from woodland clearance and the illegal poaching of rhino horn and elephant ivory.


Tete savannah elephants - Image by Deborah Varrie
Tete savannah elephants - Image by Deborah Varrie

The geology of the northern and central provinces of Mozambique broadly comprises a combination of Precambrian metamorphic and igneous basement rocks. They are bordered to the east and south by the Meso-Cenozoic Rovuma and Mozambique sedimentary basins.


These basins are estimated to have among the largest reserves of coal worldwide within the coal-bearing Vúzi, Moatize, and Matinde formations.



The Permian Period saw the global radiation of many conifer groups after the swamp forests of the Carboniferous Period began to dry out. Varieties of clubmoss and horsetail trees gradually began to disappear and were replaced by the first seed-bearing vascular plants known as gymnosperms (meaning "naked seeds").


The Tete Fossil Forest is predominantly made up of Conifers. Among the Tete Fossil Forest species are the Glossopteridaceae a family of extinct seed ferns called Australoxylon teixeirae and the coniferous wood of Agathoxylon Karoensis, Agathoxylon africanum, Zalesskioxylon zambesiensis, Cupressinoxlyon ("Cypress wood"), and Cupressinoxlyon.


Example of a Coniferous Forest - Image by Jörg Vieli
Example of a Coniferous Forest - Image by Jörg Vieli

If you are thinking of travelling to Mozambique it is highly recommended that you first check the current entry restrictions and security requirements because terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Mozambique. These restrictions and requirements may change with little warning. Monitor this advice for the latest updates and stay in contact with your travel provider.

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