This 80,000-Year-Old Aspen Grove Clones Itself

Not only is this organism one of the oldest on Earth, it is a contender for other extreme titles.

Pando aspen grove

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The oldest living organism in the world is 80,000 years old, and clones itself. Known as Pando, and nicknamed the Trembling Giant, this organism is a single grove of Quaking Aspen trees in Utah. Keep reading for some mind-blowing facts about this anomaly of nature.

Ancient Roots

aspen grove

Will Scullin / CC By 2.0

The grove is called Pando, which is Latin for "I spread"—and spread it does. The grove is actually a single clonal colony of a male Quaking Aspen. Simply put, it is essentially one massive root system that began life an estimated 80,000 years ago. The root system currently has somewhere around 47,000 stems that create the grove of trees that keep the root system going.

Old and Heavy

Pando colony

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Pando is not only considered the oldest living organism but also possibly the heaviest. The colony has spread over about 106 acres and experts think in all it weighs about 6,600 short tons. However, some experts think that chunks of the root system have died off leaving parts of the colony separated, making it effectively more than one organism. And other less-studied clonal colonies of aspen may be contenders for the title of heaviest.

Keeping Others Out

aspen grove

ZionNPS / CC By 2.0

Pando exists in part because frequent fires have kept conifers out of the area, and because a shift to a semi-arid climate has kept other aspen seedlings from taking root. This has left plenty of space for the ancient root system of Pando to spread and thrive. The fact that Pando is one giant organism wasn't discovered until the 1970s, by Burton V. Barnes of the University of Michigan. Currently, experts are worried that a range of factors are threatening the life of this ancient organism.

Old, But Maybe Even Older


Will Scullins / CC By 2.0

While Pando's estimated age of 80,000 years may be staggering, even more amazing is the possibility that experts have underestimated its age. Because the age of the organism cannot be determined through tree rings (the average age of the stems being around 130 years), many factors such as the history and climate of the local environment over millennia. Taking different factors into account, some experts think that Pando could be closer to 1 million years old! There is a lot of debate and speculation around Pando, but one thing is certain: this organism is mind-blowing.