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A gigantic ancient forest has been discovered in a sinkhole in China

Explorers found 130-foot trees sprouting from the bottom of the cave

Sophie Dickinson
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Sophie Dickinson

There’s all sorts we don’t know about the labyrinthine cave systems just beneath the surface of the Earth. But a group of researchers came across something particularly striking when they were searching through a tiankeng, or giant sinkhole, in China’s Guangxi region. 

Explorers who had travelled nearly 630 feet into the Earth discovered a vast, ancient forest. After abseiling half-way down the cave walls, the team trekked for several hours to reach the bottom. There, they were surrounded by 130-foot trees, expedition team leader Chen Lixin told newspaper Xinhua. Luckily, the group had a drone with them which allowed them to document the foliage. 

Chen also said that plants had grown densely together and came up to his shoulders, making it hard to move through. While the cave is particularly deep, its structure allows light in – meaning the trees can flourish. The explorer said
 that he ‘wouldn’t be surprised to know that there are species found in these caves that have never been reported or described by science until now’.

Translating roughly as ‘heavenly pit’, tiankeng are a common part of the landscape in South China. The Guangxi region was added to the Unesco World Heritage list in 2007 because of its unique landscape, which includes unusual rock formations and extensive cave systems. But the forest-filled sinkhole that researchers have just explored isn’t even the largest of its kind. That would be Xiaozhai Tiankeng, in the 
Tiankeng Difeng National Park, to the north.

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