Spanning over 107 acres across Utah’s Fishlake National Forest is one of the world’s largest living beings. Its name is Pando, which is Latin for “I spread”, and it is a forest, made up of roughly 47,000 aspen trees. What makes these trees unique is the fact that they actually aren’t. Each and every one of Pando’s trees is identical. They all share the same DNA and stem from one single, enormous root system. Although aspen trees can reproduce like normal trees, spreading seeds and exchanging pollen, in extreme cases their colonies implement a different strategy. If necessary, the grove can extend its roots and shoot up new seedlings. These “new” trees then grow alongside the old ones and, given sufficient time, can gradually extend over enough area to become a whole forest. But underground everything remains connected, which allows it to survive all kinds of harsh conditions - fires, droughts and even diseases.
Remarkably, Pando has been around for at least 80,000 years, making it one of the oldest organisms on the planet. It has an estimated weight of 6,615 tons, making it also the heaviest living being of which we know of today, a fact that also gives it its nickname – The Trembling Giant.
Sadly, nowadays scientists believe Pando is dying. A recent study found that it has been shrinking since decades in size and its ability to produce new saplings has greatly diminished. Although nobody knows for sure why, it is believed that the combination of grazing animals and urban development are the main cause for its current state.