Pando - (I Spread)
When the Pando clone was discovered, scientists named it with a Latin word that means “I spread.” Pando is an aspen clone that originated from a single seed and spreads by sending up new shoots from the expanding root system.
Pando is believed to be the largest, most dense organism ever found at nearly 13 million pounds. The clone spreads over 106 acres, consisting of over 40,000 individual trees. The exact age of the clone and its root system is difficult to calculate, but it is estimated to have started at the end of the last ice age. Some of the trees are over 130 years old. It was first recognized by researchers in the 1970s and more recently proven by geneticists. Its massive size, weight, and prehistoric age have caused worldwide fame.
Located in central Utah on the Fishlake National Forest, Pando is approximately 1 mile southwest of Fish Lake on State Highway 25. In the summer the green, fluttering leaves symbolize the relief from summer’s heat that you get coming to the basin. In autumn the oranges and yellows of the leaves as they change color give a hint of the fall spectacular that is the Fish Lake Basin.
Visitors from many states, as well as other nations have travelled to central Utah to see and experience Pando, especially during the fall season when the leaves turn to yellow and orange. In 2006 the U.S. Postal Service honored the Pando Clone as one of the “40 Wonders of America” with a stamp in its commemoration.
Specialists are concerned with Pando however, because the clone is showing signs of decline. There are two reasons thought to be the cause of this decline. They are a lack of regeneration, along with insects and disease.
Additionally, it is thought that the lack of regeneration is due to over browsing from deer and other ungulates. Insects, such as bark beetles, and disease such as root rot and cankers, are attacking the overstory trees, weakening and killing them. A lack of regeneration combined with weakening and dying trees, in time, could result in a smaller clone or complete die off.
The Forest Service in cooperation with partner organizations are working together to study Pando in order to address the issues of decline. Over the years, foresters have tested different methods to stimulate the roots to encourage new sprouting. Research plots have been set up in all treated areas to track Pando’s progress. With each treatment, foresters have been able to learn from Pando and adapt.
Check out the video below for additional information about Pando and restoration efforts underway.
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