In Fishlake National Park in Utah in the US lives a quaking aspen tree that most people would struggle to see as “a tree”.
It’s a clonal tree called “#Pando”, from the Latin meaning “I spread”, and for good reason.
It is so large that it is easy to mistake for a forest. However, Pando, despite being the size of Vatican City, has all sprung from one seed, and, over the years, has grown a single vast rootstock supporting an estimated 50,000 tree trunks. Accurately estimating how many years is problematic, says population geneticist Prof Karen Mock from Utah State University, who works on the aspen.
“There have been all kinds of different estimates but the original tree is almost certainly not there,” he told the BBC.
Clonal trees grow in all directions and regenerate themselves as they go. This means taking a core from a trunk will not give you the age of the whole tree.
Scientists try to get around this problem by equating size to age. It’s an inaccurate process and Pando’s estimated age ranges from a few thousand to 80,000 years old.
Prof Mock hopes that a new technique, looking at how many DNA mutations are accumulated over time, could give them another way of assessing the age of this remarkable tree.
Pando (qui, en latin, signifie « je m’étends ») est le nom donné à une immense colonie clonale de #peupliers faux-trembles (Populus tremuloides), située à l’ouest des #États-Unis dans l’#Utah.
Cette colonie est considérée comme l’organisme vivant le plus lourd et le plus âgé de la planète, avec une masse estimée à 6 000 tonnes, et un âge de 80 000 ans.
Toutefois cet #âge vénérable n’est pas confirmé par les scientifiques car il n’existe pas de méthode fiable pour calculer l’âge d’un peuplier faux-tremble clone.