The Pando tree, also commonly referred to as the “trembling giant” is one of our oldest living organisms. Unfortunately, it’s dying. In south-central Utah, the quaking aspen sprawls. Its name, “Pando” is Latin for “I spread.” Which is exactly what it does.
Fishlake National Forest
The trembling giant is in the Fishlake National Forest, just one mile from Fish Lake. It weighs a collective 6,600 tons and covers 106 acres. It’s both one of the heaviest and oldest known living organisms, at 80,000 years old.
What may be surprising about the trembling giant is that the forest is actually just one tree. It’ consists of a “clonal colony” of individual male quaking aspen or Populus tremuloides trees. So, it’s basically one single organism. It’s multiple individual trees that are actually one large tree connected by an underground root system.
All the individual trees are connected below ground which is why they can go for rows like a perfect mirror all looking the exact same. Because they are. The slight frames repeat for miles and miles. The lean stems are why the tree is called a “quaking aspen”. It’s so thin that the trees move with any environmental disturbance.
In some unfortunate news, the quaking Aspen has not been growing for the last 3-4 decades and is thought to be dying. According to a recent study, the main causes are thought to be drought, climate change and cattle grazing in the areas. Human interference is listed as another reason the Pando is not surviving. Houses and roads like State Road 25 have been built and cut through the clone’s area. From this direct change and killing of the younger trees in the clone, many ecology leaders such as Paul Rogers, from the Utah State University think that it may not last the next five to ten years.
The Western Aspen Alliance, a research group at Utah State University is trying to find a way to save the Pando. However, they do warn that we are in “crunch time” for the Pando. The area is too large and would not be cost-effective to simply fence in. The ydo believe it’s possible to save it, hopefully, these unique quaking aspens can be preserved. Through a study, they stated, While Pando has likely existed for thousands of years—we have no method of firmly fixing its’ age—it is now collapsing on our watch. One clear lesson emerges here: we cannot independently manage wildlife and forests.”