Pando or The Trembling Giant
One of the greatest secrets of life on our planet was discovered just four decades ago. This is an astonishing organism, considered to be the largest living organism on Earth. The 43 hectares of poplars come from a single root that extends underground. While on the surface the trees are born and die, the huge network of roots continues to exist and grow.
In the last century, the great tree was struck by lightning and then attacked by a disease. For this reason, its middle part has been removed so that the rest of the tree can be saved. What is called today “Trembling Giant” is, in fact, a network of interconnected and large scale, which already occupies a huge area and is in a continuous expansion.
Basically, there are clones that form a single living organism, the second largest in the world. The only body that surpasses it is a huge mushroom that stretches over an area of 3.8 square kilometers.
The root lies under Utah’s Forest Fishlake National Park, and according to experts, it is not only the largest living organism but also the oldest. Pando’s roots system has an estimated age of 80,000 years and a collective weight of about 6,000 tons.
The simple fact that all these trunks are connected together makes the entire plant assembly to be considered as one organism, one tree. This tree belongs to the species “Ficus benghalensis”, which naturally grows in India.
A Forest of Clones
The forest, dubbed Pando or “The Trembling Giant”, is located in Fishlake National Forest, in the US state of Utah. The forest covers an area of 43 hectares and is made up of about 47,000 poplars.
The poplars that are part of the “Trembling Giant” are “tremulous poplars”, so called because they prick in the smallest wind and produce a special sound.
In total, these trees weigh 6,000 tons and share the same root. All trees have the same genetic structure, so, in other words, they are clones.
So, although it seems a diversity of individual trees, the forest is one living organism. This feature of the forest was discovered in the 1970s by Burton Barnes, a researcher at the University of Michigan.
The tree is over a quarter of a millennium. No one knows who’s planted it. Instead, it is mentioned in travel journals dating from the 19th century as a novelty. The great tree went through two large cyclones in the nineteenth century.
Then he was left without some of the main branches. Due to the huge number of aerial roots, the viewer has the impression that the banyan tree has several trunks. From the inside, as well as from the outside, a whole forest, rather than a single tree, seems more straightforward.
Giant Banyan is a tree that survives and develops through this complicated network of branches and air roots after the main trunk was removed in 1925.
At present, the tree occupies an area of one and a half hectares and its longest branches reach up to about 25 meters.
The Secret is Hiding at the Root
Later, Paul Rogers, an ecologist at Michigan State University, concluded that the body is male. Even though the entire forest is a single organism, the death and the birth of the trees are independent processes.
Poplars reproduce asexually, a process by which existing roots give rise to other trunks, under favorable environmental conditions. From the surface, the trunks seem to be trees of their own.
But underground is a completely different story: all the trees are connected to the same root system. The process is repeated and the poplars are expanding on enormous surfaces.
Pando is one of the oldest living organisms known to have at least 80,000 years of age, over 47,000 strains and spreads over an area of 43 hectares.
Some researchers estimate real age to be around 1,000,000 years since they can not read the growth rings.
It is believed that Pando grew much of his life in ideal conditions: frequent forest fires prevented the colonization of the area by its direct competitors, conifers.
And climate change, the transition from moisture to semi-arid, prevented the germination of rival poplar seeds.
Pando survived forest fires because of the root system that gave birth to new strains. The average age of these stem-trunks is 130 years.
Pando, The oldest living organism on the planet?
Experts have estimated that the body’s age is about 80,000 years. Thus, “The Trembling Giant” is also one of the oldest forms of life on Earth.
Surely, the forest was here before the beginnings of human civilization. Approximation of age was, in turn, more difficult than in the case of classical trees.
If in the latter age is determined by counting trunk circles, in the case of the “Trembling Giver,” the age was determined by examining the roots.
In addition, many complex factors have been considered, such as the history of the local environment, the state of the soil in the area, the poplar growth rate and the altitude above sea level.
The Giant is Dying
Unfortunately, the future of the “giant” is not pink. Trees deteriorate due to drought, parasites, and because cows are over-grazing in this area.
The roots are also attacked, and the regenerative capacity is declining. Thus, the dead trees are no longer replaced. And if this state of affairs continues, there is a chance that the forest will disappear.
In 2013, a restoration project was set up, which aims to preserve this unique organism. Some parts of the forest have been removed to allow new trunks to grow without impediments.
Nowadays, researchers are studying trees to find out more about them and find ways to save them.
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