February 06, 2005
Meet Pando. Older than a sequoia or bristlecone pine, it’s not just the oldest, but the largest. Pando -- which means "I spread" in Latin -- is the perfect name for a stand of quaking aspen -- nominated a few ago as Earth's most massive living individual. In the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, Pando weighs about six million kilograms, or 13 million pounds. It, or should I say he, has upwards of 47,000 stems -- that's 47,000 of what you and I might mistakenly perceive as separate aspen trees making up the Fishlake National Forest.
There’s bad poetry about them, but it’s hard for anyone to take a bad picture of aspens. North America scientists studying the closely-related trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) have concluded that individual clones can survive for 10,000 years or more, making them possibly some of the longest lived organisms on the planet. Listen to young Sarah talk about old trees--she knows what she’s talking about.