In the United States, an unusual poplar forest grows, covering an area of \u43b\uXNUMXbmore than XNUMX hectares. In fact, this is one ancient tree with a single massive root system. This is the Pando tree, which is considered the heaviest living organism on the planet.
The Pando tree, also known as the trembling giant, is a clonal colony of a single tree of one of the poplar species – aspen or trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides). In fact, this poplar forest is a single living organism with the same DNA markers and a single massive root system.
The Pando tree covers an area of 43,6 hectares. The entire plant is thought to weigh around 6000 tons, making it the heaviest known organism.
Due to the gradual replacement of stems and roots, the total age of a poplar clone cannot be determined from growth rings. It is generally accepted that the age of the Pando root system is approximately 80,000 years, which makes this plant one of the oldest living organisms.
Pando has over 40,000 stems (trunks) that die off individually and are replaced by new stems growing from its roots. Individual trunks of this poplar species usually do not live more than 100–130 years, and mature sections of trunks within Pando approach this limit.
This poplar colony grows in the USA in the state of Utah, in the Fishlake National Forest Reserve. It was discovered in 1968 by Burton Barnes, who noticed the same behavior of the trees included in it. Michael Grant, Geoffrey Mitton, and Ian Linhart of the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado, USA, re-examined the clone in 1992, naming it Pando and claiming it was the largest organism in the world by weight.
Researchers Mitton and Grant describe stem development in Pando as follows:
...the trembling aspen reproduces regularly by a process called suckers. A single stem may sprout lateral roots which, under the right conditions, sprout other upright stems; from all above-ground manifestations, the new trunks look exactly the same as individual trees. The process is repeated until a whole plantation is formed, consisting of individual trees. This collection of multiple stems, called ramets, forms one single genetic individual, commonly referred to as a clone.
Since this species of poplar is dioecious (where male and female same-sex flowers are on different individuals), and since the tree is the only male specimen that reproduces by root offspring, measures are taken to protect it from deer that eat leaves and shoots.
Pando is believed to be dying. Although the exact causes are not known, a combination of drought, influence from ungulates, human activity, and forest fire prevention is thought to be most likely. Research conducted in October 2018 shows that the tree has not grown for the past 30-40 years.
Next, we will post some videos that we have selected for you so that you can better see the Pando tree and learn more interesting facts about it.