A 14,000-Year-Old Tree

Quaking aspen, Pando, in fall (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

22 October 2014

This may look like an aspen forest but it’s a single tree, 14,000 years old … maybe 80,000 years. The age is in dispute.

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.

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 13.2 million pounds.

Quaking aspen is excellent at regenerating from its root system, coming back stronger than ever with more shoots from the same root after it’s cut or burned. Wildfire and low rainfall are probably why this huge aspen is doing so well in Utah.

Pando’s given age on the NPS website is 80,000 years old but there are many theories. No one knows for sure.

p.s. If you want to see Pando in central Utah, here’s where it is –> Pando tree location.

(photo in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)

3 thoughts on “A 14,000-Year-Old Tree

  1. Do you know the beautiful book “The Oldest Living Things in the World” by photographer Rachel Sussman? It contains her photographs and her essays about each. Pando is in it.

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