The Trembling Giant

Located in the Fishlake National Forest in South Central Utah there is a clonal colony of one single male species of Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) and it is known by the name Pando, which is Latin for “I spread”.   “The Trembling Giant” has been determined to be a part of ONE SINGLE living organism by studying genetic markers and is connected through an extensive underground system of roots.  Its existence has been estimated at 80,000 years of age and weighing in at 6,600 short tons, at present, it is the heaviest living organism known to man.   It encompasses around 106 acres of land and has an estimated 47,000 stems.

The average age of Pando’s trunks, or stems, is 130 years, as deciphered by tree rings. Michael Grant in BioScience said:

…quaking aspen regularly reproduces via a process called suckering. An individual stem can send out lateral roots that, under the right conditions, send up other erect stems; from all above-ground appearances the new stems look just like individual trees. The process is repeated until a whole stand, of what appear to be individual trees, forms. This collection of multiple stems, called ramets, all form one, single, genetic individual, usually termed a clone.

…the Forest Service recently decided to try to boost its growth by clear-cutting part of the stand. It chain-sawed three clear cuts, totaling about 15 acres, right out of the middle of this magnificent old clone and offered the timber for free to any who wanted firewood.

The leaves of the quaking aspen appear to tremble in the slightest breeze, which is where the tree got it’s name.  Perhaps it trembles for humanity.  It seems though the significance of Pando lies with the interest about all things botanical.  It might even get us to ask more questions about the world around us.  The more we look into the unique properties of the quaking aspen, it serves to heighten our wonderment with the complexity, beauty, and ongoing mystery of this tree.  If anyone else agrees, then perhaps we can save Pando and clones like it from an unfortunate destiny, such as firewood.  Maybe it is about time to look for the forest through the trees.  SQUAREROOTOFZERO


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