Pando National Forest - The Trembling Giant

The largest organism in the world is not an elephant or a whale, it is actually the Pando Aspen Clone or the Trembling Giant on the Fishlake National Forest. What looks like almost 50,000 separate trees is actually just one single tree with multiple offshoots covering over 106 acres in Utah.

Pando, a word in Latin which means “I spread”, is a massive grove of quaking aspens known for their bright yellow color in fall and the quaking sound they make as the wind passes. If you’ve noticed, its leaves actually all go from green to gold at the same time in fall. This is because the entire grove is a large organism where a massive root system connects thousands of aspen trunks.

80,000 years ago, a seed the size of a pepper grain slowly grew into what now is almost 50,000 trunks of aspen. It is the heaviest living thing in the world at 13 million pounds while being one of the oldest (almost 2.6 million years old).

Aspens have the ability to produce identical offspring through offshoots from their roots which allows them to colonize vast landscapes through a shared root system.  The Pando Aspen Clone grew from a single parent aspen and genetically cloned itself for thousands of years to get where it is today.

However, the Pando national forest is in danger. Today, most of its trunks are more than 100 years old and new ones aren’t growing. Recent changes in the environment such as overgrazing of animals like deer and elk, and human development in surrounding areas has affected its ability to grow new trunks to replace old, dead ones. Because of this, the Trembling Giant is at risk of shrinking.

It has been suggested that fencing surrounding areas may be effective in protecting new Pando trunks from being eaten by deer and elk. Protected areas can help the new trunks grow rapidly and reproduce but more studies need to be made as ranchers don’t want to endanger their livestock as well. Hopefully, more research can be done to protect one of earth’s biggest, and beautiful wonders.

Quick facts about Pando:

  • Pando is located just southwest of Fish Lake on Utah State Highway 25
  • It is a “clonal colony” of quaking aspen which means that genetic analysis has shown that the entire forest is just one single male individual connected by a massive root system
  • It was discovered in 1968 and studied for decades before being named the world’s largest organism in 1992
  • It is named “Pando,” which is Latin for “I spread.”
  • Its leaves turn bright gold in the fall, colony by colony
  • Pando is the size of 80 American football fields (106 acres, 43 hectares)
  • Its weight has been estimated at 13 million lbs (6,000 metric tons) making it the heaviest known organism on Earth.
  • Pando’s root system is believed to be 80,000 years old, making it one of Earth’s oldest living organisms
  • It contains more than 47,000 stems (trunks) of aspen trees with an average age of 130 years.

Just like all the aspen trunks that are connected to one large and wonderful Pando tree, we at Pando Coffee believe that we are all connected and each of us can make a difference one step at a time to contribute to a bigger purpose.