Photo courtesy of Mark Maceda photography @mark_ma.
Each fall, our mountain’s aspen groves remind us of winter’s steadfast approach. Pockets of gold, orange and yellow stand out amongst the green and rocky world in which they live, making the task of distinguishing individual trees and groves from afar relatively easy thanks to their illuminating foliage. Interestingly, many of these seemingly isolated islands of gold, orange and yellow are simply the stems of a complex, largely underground colony, all of which share a common root base, and an identical genetic composition.
One of our world’s largest and oldest living organisms is a single quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) grove located in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest, called the Trembling Giant, which consists of 47,000 genetically identical quaking aspen trees, all of whom share a common root system. This mammoth colony spans 107 acres and weighs close to 6,615 tons. And some believe the Trembling Giant is close to 80,000 years, making it one of our world’s oldest organisms!
As you spend the tail-end of fall exploring the seemingly endless sea of aspens that blanket so many of our mountains, river valleys and hills, remember there is much more than meets the eye.