The Pando Forest is the largest living organism in the world
The largest living organism on the planet is the Pando Forest. Yes, not an elephant or a whale, but a plant. Or rather a whole forest, but in fact a large colony of one organism in the form of a grove of the same type of trees.
You probably know that animals are not the only living organisms. Plants are also living organisms. If this is news to you, you either didn’t go to school or biology isn’t your thing at all.
This forest is often called the Pando Tree, implying that it is a single organism. Its unofficial name is Trembling Giant.
Where is the Pando Forest
This amazing living organism can be seen almost in the middle of Utah (southwestern United States) just a mile and a half southwest of Fish Lake (in the original Fish Lake). The forest is located right on the side of Road No25.
What is Pando Forest?
This forest is a regular grove of aspen-shaped poplar trees up to 500 meters long and 120 meters wide. It covers an area of 43 hectares. The Pando Forest is located at an altitude of 2,697 meters above sea level.
There are about 40,000 trees in total. They gradually die off and are replaced by new ones growing from the same root system. In fact, clones of dead trees grow. The average age of Pando trees is about 130 years, as evidenced by the tree rings.
If you’re not a biologist, the Pando Forest is to you an inconspicuous standard grove that you’re unlikely to pay attention to. But for the scientists who conducted research here, a raft of experiments revealed a startling discovery. It turned out that all these trees have absolutely identical genetic markers. That is, it is absolutely certain (for scientists, and now for you as well) that this is a single living organism.
Presumably all the trees have a single underground root system. This once again, albeit indirectly, but proves the hypothesis of biologists.
According to approximate calculations of scientists, the Pando Forest can weigh about 6,000 tons. This is at least three times heavier than General Sherman, the largest tree in the world. Accordingly, the Pando Forest is also the heaviest living organism on the planet.
But that’s not all. According to the same scientists, the Trembling Giant was born (if I may say so) at least 80,000 years ago, which also makes it the oldest living organism on Earth. Although some scientists put forward the theory that the Pando Tree is about 1 million years old, but there is no clear evidence of this yet.
A bit of history
Supposedly the Pando Forest has grown and developed most of its life in conditions that are ideal for it. Periodic forest fires greatly interfered with its main competitor, the conifers. Therefore, they failed to colonize the area. On the other hand, the climate change from humid to semi-arid prevented aspen forests from spreading here.
Interestingly, during intense fires, the single organism of the Pando Tree survived underground, and its root system gave birth to new trees after each forest fire.
This forest was first discovered in 1968 by researcher Burton Barnes, who continued to study it into the 1970s. He was the first to describe it as a single living organism based on morphological characteristics. Since then, scientific methods have come a long way and have largely confirmed his conclusions.
Based on Barnes’ early work, Michael Grant of the University of Colorado at Boulder, studying this colony of trees, first named it “Pando,” which is Latin for “I disperse” or “I spread,” and was also the first to suggest in 1992 that it was the heaviest organism in the world.
The current state of the Pando Forest
At present, this forest is believed to be dying out. The exact reasons for this phenomenon are unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of a number of factors, such as drought, grazing in the surrounding area, and, oddly enough, the occasional forest fire fighting.
Biologists are still studying this unique forest and trying to save it. For example, the United States Forest Service is now experimenting with several sections of 2 hectares each in an attempt to find a means to preserve the Pando Forest.
- In 2006, the Pando Forest was listed as one of the forty “Wonders of America.”
- Similar groups of trees are still found in eastern North America, but are usually less than 0.1 hectare in size
- Large colonies of mushrooms in Oregon, ancient Creosote shrubs (Larrea tridentata) and colonies of the sea plant Posidonia oceanica in the Mediterranean Sea also claim to be the heaviest organism. But the debate is still going on, and scientists are giving the palm of the weight category to the Pando Forest.
And here is a short video on the largest organism on Earth. It’s in English, but it has Russian subtitles, and in general it’s quite funny. Don’t be lazy and take only 3 minutes to watch it.
Pando’s Aspen Grove – trees that are 80,000 years old
Meet the Pando Aspen Grove, aka the Shivering Giant, the most massive and ancient living organism on the planet. According to the most conservative estimates, Pando is 80,000 years old!
The biological wonder grows on the rocky mountains of the Fishlake National Forest, Utah, USA. The clonal colony of the aspen-shaped poplar spreads over 43 hectares, with 47,000 trunks, and the combined weight of the root system and trees is 6,000 tons!
It is hard to believe that young and seemingly thin trees can be 80,000 years old. In fact, it is the trees, that is, the above-ground part of the organism, on average 130 years old. But the root system of the grove is the oldest organism on Earth.
Radiocarbon analysis of the examined samples allowed us to estimate their age at 80,000 years. At the same time, some scientists adhere to the theory that Pando may be more than a million years old. But so far it has not been possible to study more ancient samples.
A single organism
Why is an aspen grove considered a single living organism? Because it shares a common root system, and all the trees have an identical genetic code. In essence, the aspen-branched poplar clones itself.
The seed method of propagation of aspen is quite unreliable. Already in a few days after the seeds hit the soil, they lose their ability to germinate. On the other hand, vegetative propagation, the ejection of shoots from the roots of adult trees, allows the colony to reproduce quickly.
Apparently Utah has ideal conditions for the development and expansion of the root system. Even the frequent wildfires that have occurred in the area have not been able to cause serious damage to the Pando. While the trees burned, the roots remained intact. And since the fire was also destroying conifers, the Shivering Giant had no competitors in the way of taking over the territory.
The root system is so powerful that you will hardly find any other trees on the 43-hectare site, although there are plenty of them around. When the trunks reach the end of their life, they leave behind a shoot.
History of Pando.
The Pando clonal group was discovered in 1968 by Burton Barnes. In the seventies, the University of Michigan scientist was actively studying the Shivering Giant. It was he who described and studied the living organism in detail, using molecular methods that have improved over time.
Although clonal groups are often found in North America, the size of the invaded area is usually larger than 0.1 hectare. How Pando managed to occupy 43 hectares is still not exactly known.
The aspen grove is a local landmark and is very well cared for. But at this point, Pando is believed to be dying. The rate of growth of new trees is much less than the rate at which the old trunks are dying off. This is primarily due to fungi and insects.
Fishlake National Forest staff conducts experimental work on plots of 2-5 hectares to intensify tree growth and speed up reproduction. At the same time, it is not known for sure whether such attempts yield results and whether the decline of reproductivity is temporary. It is possible that in the history of Pando there have already been similar periods, which were replaced by periods of active growth.
Shivering Giant’s Record
In 1992, Pando was officially recognized as the most massive and ancient living organism on the planet. This wonder of the botanical world was permanently inscribed in the Guinness Book of World Records! So far no one has been able to beat it.
Shivering Giant is rivaled by colonies of mushroom mats in Oregon, King Clone creosote shrubs 11,700 years old, and colonies of Poseidon grass in the Mediterranean Sea.
How can you see Pando?
The best time to admire Pando is in the fall. You can see it by walking along the Lakeshore National Recreation Trail. Climbing Mt. Mytoge on the south side of the lake, you’ll get great views of the entire colony after 3-4 km.
The Golden Shivering Giant will not leave you indifferent!
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In the arms of a caring earth My first days were gone, I was so small, I dreamed dreams in which I saw the beauty and breath of spring, For whose sake I could grow forever, I imagined being caressed by the summer sun, Unaware that I might be deprived, I might be in the shade, Unaware of what I might be, Where the winds of fate have carried me in their invisible arms, Of where my parents are and what they now feel, I simply loved to grow, While worms and other creatures crawled around me, And then came the day, I cannot forget those happy moments, When I broke through to the surface of the world that before was only part of a dream, I immediately fell in love with it, I was destined to merge with it from the moment of creation, How blissful was the air’s freshness and the first wind’s intoxicating blowing, Though the desired light was so little, Taken away by other plants, Who also wanted to live and grow, This love, not evil greed, And I kept the peace, understanding all processes acquiring, I reached up and reached deep, I was watered by rainwater, I wanted to penetrate everywhere, extracting nutrients, I was kept by luck and drove away hungry packs of beasts, I could not stop growing, and therefore it was easy for me To love every moment and part of my world, Every drop of moisture to which I was drawn, The soil in which happiness is encased, Its sweetness, comfort and warmth.
Calmly the years went by, I could not be disturbed by passions, And thin leaves were full of the colors of youth, They adorned the first branches that were so fragile, I absorbed the sun’s food and grew new layers, But that summer day a presentiment of trouble took hold of all, I remember how anxiety helplessly began to spread over my body, After the heat raged a storm and giant lightning spewed the atmosphere, From the insatiable fire the nimble beasts flew past us somewhere in panic, And we could not flee and in an instant, absorbed by the ages, the titans of wood decayed, I was among them, but I was lucky – my roots were saved and kept the lust for life, And I could with hope start all over again, without fuss, thoughtfully, driven by a higher desire To feel again that, I was the first to rise above the ashes, The world around me bloomed anew, I was no longer a stranger to it, The mighty neighbors had all their footprints wiped away And skeletons and stumps remained, I was stronger than all who rose from the burnt depths, And unnoticed I crushed them, forgetting easily in endless love To this world, to be forever intoxicated by the taste of the morning dew, For only my matter is valuable, and it was not my fault, Generations of birds sang and enjoyed the love game, Made nests in the branches and my beasts fed on the bark, I said good-bye to the yellowing leaves time after time, Sank into sleep and froze so hard in winter, But the memory of warmth was still alive.
I loved to grow more and more, With my feelings staying locked up, But I was able to escape into existence itself, And though the joys of movement were not given to me, But I so wanted to know what is far away, Beyond the horizon, on the lake shore, on the other side of the hill, That the world is beautiful, infinite, the winds whispered to me, And I so desperately wanted to know it, my faith was mad and blind, Even if everyone laughed and said that this opportunity was not given to the plant, But I just waited for a new dawn, Days gradually merged into years, and they into centuries, And my roots stretched further and from them new shoots began to rise, All these thousand trunks of the very first one by the same genetic pattern of variation, With every cell feeling energy flows, I dreamed to be eternally renewed, but to remain the same, Every day to reach a new point of existence, To know death and to be reborn, To pass through the same stages, To bury parts of the former self, to lose and come back, And I reached my goal, the moments of eternity are now inseparable to me, I have for thousands of years merged the seasons into the fullest picture, Forming perfect moments, that every detail kept, I am the same tiny sprout, born from the ashes of the plain, Though imperceptibly I became a giant with a body immense, My body gradually filled space, Absorbing and touching, it stretched further and further, I understood that no more congeners remained, And sometimes I felt pity for the unborn, But most importantly, my matter was preserved.
I comprehended the living all the dreams, In my features they found their ideal, They sought immortality for their souls, But destruction stages awaited them ahead, And I am the only one who could germinate in eternity itself, I deeply rooted in time destructive stream, But all living somewhere rushed, flashed, disappeared, I was so alone, Every loss with me, I remember everything, in me is stored trace of faded eras, But I wanted so much to tell about them to someone, To meet someone who could understand me, And then not so long ago two-legged creatures came, Their eyes were penetrating, deep, And that all the trees in the grove Are parts of my body, they were able to comprehend, Feeling my greatness, instead of ruining, They began to protect me, they gave me a name, Because thanks to me they could touch the times, When their civilization was not a thing of the past, Year after year I cared to save artists and photographers from the rain under my crowns, But they so quickly satiated me, they left, and we still remained strangers, And I continued to believe that I would meet one who was only devoted to the thirst for growth itself, Who in his detachment could know to overcome the vanity of the animal delusion, We would understand each other, Even being in different parts of the world, And so one day in the frosty cold my soul was warmed, For at last I could find my own brother, the Poet, Through the chaos of the world’s threads he saw the higher connection, His rebellious spirit grew and became stronger than rocks, And he alone in this world knew as much, Though he once suffered so much, He was so poor, he was so small.