We recently returned from a wonderful
trip to Telluride, Colorado. As the Fall Equinox took hold, we couldn’t wait to
see the majestic aspens change color in this “little town’o Telluride”. Were we
pleased when we arrived? You betcha! I am delighted to present my Fall Collection!
Below is a story reported by Norm
Vance on “Colorado Aspen ~ the Largest Living Thing on Earth!”….ITS’ FASCINATING! NO WONDER THERE
ARE “BANDS” OF ASPENS THAT CHANGE COLOR IN THE SAME WAY AT THE SAME TIME!
Several seasons ago popular radio personality Paul Harvey
reported a story about two Michigan biologists who presented an academic
research paper reporting on their finding “the largest living thing on earth.”
The “thing” was a 40-acre fungus. This sent scientists around the world
scrambling to find their own “largest living thing.” Soon, another report was
passed on by Harvey from another scientist who reported finding a fungus
covering 1500 acres in Washington State.
These massive fungi exist mostly underground. Some fungi have
protrusion that poke up through the earth’s surface. The protrusions are called
The distinctive factor in searching for and naming the largest
living thing is that when a DNA test is done on any part of it, the results are
identical to all other parts. It is genetically the same being or each part of
it is a “clone” of the main being. When they test and stop getting the same
results they know they have gone beyond the “things” edge.
Now we have a new entry in the largest thing race. Michael C.
Grant, University of Colorado scientist, published a paper to “set the record
straight.” Grant discounted the fungi and claimed the aspen is the largest living thing.
If asked, most people think of whales or giant redwood trees as
the largest living things. The Washington fungus, at a calculated 825,000
pounds, was about twice the weight of a blue whale, but nowhere near the weight
of a giant sequoia red wood tree. A lot of this argument is based on the
perspective one has on “largest.”
Grant pointed out that aspen trees commonly grow by the
“vegetative method”. This means that a tree grows roots near the surface of the
ground from which new trees sprout. The new trees are genetically identical to
the parent tree. This process of
reproduction can grow vast forests of aspen that are all interconnected by
roots and are one genetic individual. Common “crab grass” grows and spreads
the same way and this is the reason it is so hard to free a yard of it.
Grant studied an aspen clone in Utah consisting of a calculated
47,000 tree trunks covering 106 acres. It is calculated to weigh 13 million
pounds. This dwarfed the previous claims. He named the stand Pando for the
Latin word meaning “to spread”.
Anyone passing through the San Juan Forest can enjoy observing
aspen based Dr. Grant’s information. Hikers, bikers or horseback riders who go
slow and stop often can observe best. As you pass along watch for changes in
the aspen. One clone will likely be different than a neighboring clone. Watch
for branch angle from the trunk that can vary from about 45 degrees to 80
degrees in different clones. Some clones tend to have branches closer to the
ground while others have branches very high up on the truck. As you move and
watch you should be able to tell when you pass from one clone to another. You
may also observe that you are in an area where two or more clones have
overlapped and grow in the same space. It is common to move from a clone into a
mixed area and then into a new clone.
You may find an odd-ball tree growing in an otherwise homogenous
stand. It is likely that this tree is growing from a leaf or twig a bird or the
wind carried from afar. It fell to the earth, rooted and grew into this tree
and one day it may spread and become a new clone in the area.
Also, a good time to observe aspen clones is during spring and
fall. In spring all trees in a clone
tend to bud and leaf-out at about the same time. In the fall all leaves in a
clone tend to turn their fall colors at about the same time and they tend to
turn the same shades of yellow, orange or red. The vivid fall colors make it
easy to identify clones from a distance.
People planting aspen trees often find the tree they planted
dies after a season or two but, if they wait, new sprouts come up a few feet to
the side and grow into healthy trees. This is the spreading process at work.
In Love and Gratitude ~ Thank you, Aspen!