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9 Weird, Wonderful and Otherworldly Forests On Planet Earth

by Meaghan Weeden October 31, 2023 5 min read

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Some forests have to be seen to be believed

From Australian lyrebirds, natural mimics that can repeat virtually any sound they hear to the pouty-lipped galapagos batfish that haunts equatorial oceans deep, the discerning observer will find that nature can be stranger than fiction. And while bright red lips on a deepwater fish may seem entirely unnecessary, in nature, there's a reason for everything. In order to thrive, entire ecosystems adapt to their respective environments in some extraordinarily bizarre and mind-bending ways.

Fans of all things weird and wonderful will be pleased to know that trees and forests are no exception to this. So, in the spirit of the unusual, here are a few of the most amazing earthbound trees and forests you’ll want to believe in.

Discover 9 Weird and Wonderful Forests That Could Be Straight Off of Another Planet

1. Deadvlei, Namibia

Though technically not a living forest, the trees of the Deadvlei in Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia are a strange sight to behold. Deadvlei, which means ‘dead marsh’, is a clay pan surrounded by some of the highest sand dunes in the world. 1,000 years ago, these dunes filled up with water when the nearby river flooded, allowing trees to grow in the middle of the desert. Some 900 years later, the area has completely dried up, leaving just the ‘corpses’ of these trees behind. In fact, the climate is so dry, the trees cannot decompose. After hundreds of years spent baking in the hot desert sun, the trees are scorched and blackened like an eerie post-apocalyptic wasteland.

2. Crooked Forest, Poland

You’ve obviously seen trees that grow straight up. You may have even seen trees that grow at an angle. But have you ever seen trees that grow in a near perfect semi-circle? That’s what you'll find in a section of forest outside the small town of Gryfino, Poland. Some 400 pine trees have grown in the shape of a slanted J, all of them with the belly of the J pointing North. Even more strange: they're surrounded by other trees that are happily growing in the old fashioned manner, straight up towards the sky. From tanks rolling over them during WWII, to strange gravitational pull, to humans bending the trees themselves to make curved wood for boats, many theories have been posed. But in the end, no one really knows why they're bent. 

3. Dragon Blood Trees, Yemen

Trees that bleed red? Now that’s straight out of the Twilight Zone. The Dragon Blood trees on the Yemeni island of Socotra are some of the most unique and abstract looking vegetative species on the planet. Their umbrella shape, made up of thick, plentiful branches, make the trees look like gigantic, dried-out broccoli sprouting up from the desert landscape. The trees get their name from the blood red resin they produce, which has been used in medicine (for diarrhea, wounds, ulcers, and fever), dye, and as a stimulant for thousands of years. Pretty amazing, right?

4. Sunken Forest, Kazakhstan

Kind of the exact opposite of the Deadvlei, the Sunken Forest in Kazakhstan is made up of tree trunks jutting out of Lake Kaindy’s surface. After a landslide caused by an earthquake in 1911 formed a natural dam, rain and river water from the surrounding mountains filled the newly formed lake and drowned the trees. Now all that remains above the water are limbless tree trunks protruding skywards like a series of telephone poles. However, below the water’s surface, a whole new habitat has grown. The submerged portions of the trees are now covered in algae and other water plants, creating the illusion of a dense underwater forest. One habitat lost, another gained!

5. Goblin Forest, New Zealand

New Zealand is a fantastical land of mountains, forests, and some of the most incredible biodiversity — like hobbits! No, not really. But they do have a Goblin Forest! The forests of Egmont National Park are something out of a fairy tale. The twisted and gnarled branches of the native Kamahi trees are almost completely engulfed by moss, lichen and other hanging vegetation. Sitting at the base of a volcano, an eruption around 400 years ago felled most of the forest. This gave the Kamahi trees an opportunity to take over and thrive. The hardy tree gets its start in life by growing on the surface of other plants, fallen branches, and brush.

6. Rainbow Eucalyptus, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the Philippines

Native to the rainforests of the Philippines, Indonesia and Papua, New Guinea, Rainbow Eucalyptus trees are almost too beautiful to be real. With striking multicolored bark that could be straight out of a Dr. Suess book, they're truly a sight to behold! An evergreen with spear-shaped, silvery-green leaves and tiny white flowers, these trees have bark that grows in vibrant shades of green, blue, orange, red and purple. As the bark grows, it constantly peels off in strips to reveal new colors and create new patterns. In their native environment, these trees can grow to over 200 ft tall, sometimes shooting up by 5 ft in a single season. 

7. Avenue of the Giants, Madagascar

Towering above like massive pillars leading to an otherworldly castle, Madagascar's Grandidiers baobabs line the dirt road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in the Menabe region of western Madagascar. The "Avenue of Baobabs," as it's known, is considered the most beautiful road in Madagascar. These massive ancients — many are over 800 years old with trunks over 150 feet around — create a scene so beautiful and unique that they attract visitors from across the globe. In addition to being truly majestic, Baobab trees share plentiful resources: their trunks can be tapped harmlessly for water during the dry season, their young leaves can be eaten in salad, and their fruits contain a nutritious pulp that is consumed across Africaas part of a popular summertime beverage.

8. Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland

This tunnel of beech trees found in County Antrim, Northern Ireland gives off some seriously spooky vibes. Planted back in the 18th century to impress visitors (welcome and unwelcome) approaching the Georgian mansion Gracehill House, they certainly make an impression. Taking their spooky nature to another level, the Dark Hedges are featured in HBO's Game of Thrones, where they represent the Kingsroad — the road leading from Kings Landing to Castle Black — giving this fictional road sinister vibes from start to finish. 

9. Hoia-Baciu Forest, Romania

Considered to be the "most haunted forest in the world", the Hoia-Baciu forest, or the "Bermuda Triangle of Romania" is located to the west of the city of Cluj-Napoca, near the open-air section of the Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania. Filled with warped trees that lend it an eerie atmosphere, it's no wonder that it has captured the imagination of people for centuries. According to local legends, ghosts and spirits lurk among the trees. People have been known to disappear within the spooky grove and reappear years later, a la Rip Van Winkle, with no recollection of where they had been. To add to the intrigue, there have been UFO sightings and reported alien encounters here, too! For this reason, thrill seekers from around the globe visit for spooky forest adventures. 

Plant a Tree to Help Keep Forests Weird

The forests of Earth truly are amazing, and this list only grazes the surface of the weird and wonderful world of nature's diversity. You don't have to look far to find more of the beautiful oddities Mother Nature has to offer.

Though not nearly as strange, our planting projects around the world make sure the forests of the world offer just as much awe-inspiring nature as New Zealand's Goblin Forest, or Sunken Forest of Kazakhstan. Want to help keep our forests weird? Plant a tree today!

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Meaghan Weeden
Meaghan Weeden

Meaghan works to share our story far and wide, manages our blog calendar, coordinates with the team on projects + campaigns, and ensures our brand voice is reflected across channels. With a background in communications and an education in environmental conservation, she is passionate about leveraging her creativity to help the environment!