What’s the Heaviest Living Organism in the World?

Ever wanted to know what the heaviest living organism in the world is? Surprisingly, it’s not a giant squid, terrifyingly widespread fungus, or peacefully noble blue whale; the honor belongs instead to the charmingly named Pando (Latin for “I spread”) the tree. Far from the majesty of oaks or the timelessness of redwoods, Pando is a humble tree– or rather, an interlinked collection of clones, sharing a behemoth root system– with white bark and spindly trunks.

Specifically, Pando is a quaking aspen (a species named for the way their leaves shake in the wind), comprised of 47,000 tree trunks across 106 acres, and weighing in at approximately 13 million pounds. Pando is located south of the Wasatch Mounts in Utah, a mile southwest of Fish Lake on State Highway 25 (if you just so happen to be in the area).

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Properly, Pando is known as a clonal colony (in other words, a genetically identical group) and achieved its current size through a process known as vegetative reproduction (the process of asexual reproduction during which structures extend out and form new stems identical to the parent). Spanning across the entire colony of trees, Pando’s roots can carry water and nutrients from area to area– keeping the entire organism healthy.

In part, Pando’s continued long term and widespread success has been because of wildfires– without fires, conifers crowd aspens out. And while aspens are somewhat more susceptible to fire than other species of tree because they don’t have an outer protective layer of dead bark, when a large portion of the clonal colony dies, the rest of the growth is stimulated, through hormonal changes, to produce new, rapid growth.

Pando (besides its adorable name) is a fun bit of trivia for Lil’ Sprouts. Encourage them to make up their own history for Pando– its personality, its likes and dislikes– and to think about how interconnected and immense nature can be.

Here’s to Pando’s many more years of good health!

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