Our Friend Pando
If you’ve ever driven from Salt Lake City to Capitol Reef National Park, then you’ve seen Pando – earth’s largest organism! Pando is a tree. Or more accurately, Pando is a clonal tree colony. What appears to be a forest of thousands of single quaking aspen trees is actually one living organism – Pando, the Trembling Giant. Located about a mile outside of Fish Lake, Pando is clearly visible from Utah State Road 24, near the Koosharem reservoir.
Lots of Awards
Judging by the genetic markers taken from trunks all over the colony, Pando is estimated to span over a hundred acres. And it weighs about 6,600 tons – making it both the largest and the heaviest known single organism in the world! Determining Pando’s age is a little tricker, but most studies estimate it to be about 80,000 years old (although some suggest that it may be as old as one million years.) Its age easily ranks Pando among earth’s oldest organisms.
See Pando Yourself
As we pointed out, Pando can clearly be seen on Utah State Road 24. But if you want to walk among the 40,000 trunks of Pando, then you should check out Fish Lake and Fishlake National Forest. The Fishlake Scenic Byway – also known as Utah State Road 25 – will reveal large swaths of Pando. Feel free to get out and stretch your legs on top of the Trembling Giant. (And while you’re up there, but sure to check out Fish Lake. It’s the largest fresh water lake in the state, and is pretty awesome too.)
Not Feeling So Well
Unfortunately, Pando has been exhibiting signs of stress. Some scientists believe it could be dying. The exact reasons for this are not known, but competition with encroaching conifers, wide-spread grazing, and drought are thought to be contributing factors. The Forest Service is currently trying various tests to see if we can’t help improve the health of this amazing organism.