Trees Part 5

Trees Part 5

Trees Part 5

So often with nature, our eyes deceive us. Here on the Fish Lake Plateau, a spry-looking stand of aspens is — for the moment — the oldest living organism known to humans (though there’s a mass of fungus in Oregon vying for the honor). Yet no one individual tree here is particularly old — it’s what’s underground that’s ancient. The roots of all of these trees hold the genetic code of one single aspen that sprang from a single seed over 80,000 years ago (a bit of perspective: Not only were there no humans in the Americas at this time, but Homo sapiens were very likely still hanging out in Africa). What we see aboveground are all male clones that propagate via root suckers. As it turns out, aspens have been chronically sexually frustrated for the past 10,000 years, making reproduction via seeds nonviable. The clonal colony here spans over 100 acres and weighs in at over 6,000 tons. To get a sense of its immensity, hike up the Lakeshore Trail to the top of Mytoge Mountain. In the fall, you can almost perceive that this is one giant being, when the leaves flutter, turn bright yellow, and then drop to the ground in unison.

About marksolock

I am a lawyer in Chicago with interests in pop culture and current politics.
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