Ballypalady ASSI

Protected area type: Areas of Special Scientific Interest
Feature type: 
  • Earth Science
  • Antrim
Council: Antrim and Newtownabbey
Guidance and literature: Ballypalady ASSI

Ballypaladay ASSI is one of the most important Tertiary age fossil plant localities in Britain or Ireland. Since 1869 its fossilised flora has been widely studied and documented. It is believed that the site was initially exposed during the construction of the first railways in Northern Ireland. Further exposure resulted during the mining of the relatively rich iron ore deposits found in these rocks.

The fossils discovered at Ballypalady would indicate that the Plant Bed dates back to the Palaeocene Age, some 60 million years ago.

The Interbasaltic Bed in which they are found formed over several hundred thousand years, a period of relative geological calm between the eruptions of the preceding Lower Basalts and succeeding Upper Basalts.

Sediment was generated by the weathering and erosion of the Lower Basalt during flood events, accumulating to form the Plant Bed. A rich diversity of plant debris was buried during minor floods and preserved within the Plant Bed.

Plant material derived from conifers, flowering plants and ferns has been found in the form of pollens, fruiting bodies and plant fragments.

Many of the species discovered in the plant bed would be familiar to us today. Tree species include pine, alder, willow, red cedar, cypress, yew, hemlock, plane, gum and poplar. It is evident from the range of such species, that a warm temperate climate was present.

The site is of significant importance in context of its botanical diversity and for attributing to a better understanding of the regional climatic conditions at the time. 

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