Oct 22 2014
This may look like an aspen forest but it’s a single tree, 80,000 years old.
Last week at the Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania we were wowed by the news that this stand of quaking aspen, covering 106 acres near Utah’s Fish Lake, is a single “tree.” All the trunks are shoots from a single clonal root.
We learned this during Wil Taylor’s lecture on Jennings Prairie when he explained that aspen is threatening to take over Jennings. DCNR burns or cuts the prairie to keep it open but aspen love that treatment. They come back even stronger the next year with more shoots from the same root. In fact, fire and low rainfall are probably the reason why this huge aspen is doing so well in Utah.
Discovered by Burton V. Barnes in 1968 and nicknamed The Trembling Giant, Barnes used morphological clues to determine this Populus tremuloides was from one clonal root. In the 1990s Michael Grant studied it further and named it Pando. DNA proves it to be one plant hosting 40,000 stems and weighing 13 million pounds.
Pando’s given age is 80,000 years but that’s the conservative estimate. It may be as much as 1 million years old. No one knows for sure.
(photo in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)