Friday, 3 August 2012
The Trembling Giant
Pando (Latin for "I spread"), also known as The Trembling Giant, is a clonal colony of a single male Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) located in Utah, determined to be a single living organism by identical genetic markers and one massive underground root system. The plant is estimated to weigh collectively 6,000,000 kg (6,600 short tons), making it the heaviest known organism. The root system of Pando, at an estimated 80,000 years old, is among the oldest known living organisms.
Pando is thought to have grown for much of its lifetime under ideal circumstances: frequent forest fires have prevented its main competitor, conifers, from colonizing the area, and a climate shift from wet and humid to semi-arid has obstructed seedling establishment and the accompanying rivalry from younger aspens.
During intense fires, the organism survived underground, with its root system sending up new stems in the aftermath of each wildfire. If its postulated age is correct, the climate into which Pando was born was markedly different from that of today, and it may be as many as 10,000 years since Pando's last successful flowering.