The world’s largest and densest organism lives right here in Utah

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BEAVER, Utah (ABC4) – It’s the largest, most dense living organism in the world, weighs roughly 13 million pounds, spreads over 106 acres, and dates back to prehistoric times, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA. And it’s right here in Utah.

But from State Highway 25 which run through it, it just looks like a stand of Aspen trees.

Courtesy: The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service

And that’s essentially what it is. But what makes this stand unique is what’s underground.

The Pando Clone is an aspen clone with an expansive roots system. It creates new trees by sending up new shoots from nodes on the roots. Because it’s a clone, the entire aspen stand has the same genetic makeup. The clone is located in Fishlake National Forest, includes over 40,000 individual trees, and is estimated to have begun with a single seed at the end of the last ice age.

Terry Holsclaw, forrester at Fishlake National Forest says the nodes are like little warts on the roots underground.

“If you were to dig into the ground and pull up some roots you’d see these nodes. They look like little warts on their roots… it’s why you can burn an Aspen stand. It’s why you can cut every tree down on the stand and that stand will come back with more Aspen than it started with,” he explains.

“So you have all these nodes and the root system is quite extensive, and so you can even expand the area of aspen because the root system can be farther out than what you see above ground, from where the aspen stand is,” he adds.

According to USDA, visitors from around the world come to see the Pando Clone; especially in the fall when the leaves turn yellow. Courtesy: USDA Forest Service

Though it may not be as well-known a tourist attraction as other Utah sights, Holsclaw says the Pando Clone attracts visitors from all over the world.

In fact, in 2006, the U.S. Postal Service named the Pando Clone one of the “40 Wonders of America” and commemorated it with a stamp, according to USDA.

“It’s been researched heavily. It’s been talked about heavily. It’s been put on the map so to speak,” he says. “To me it’s not much different than any other aspen stands. There is some uniqueness about how we have to manage it because it’s so popular.”

In fact, Holsclaw says he gets calls from all over the country and was even interviewed by an organization from Brazil about the Pando Clone.

The Pando Clone is marked with a sign so visitors will know when they come to it and a large portion of it is blocked off with an eight-foot fence to keep grazers such as deer or cattle away.

Visit fs.usda.gov to learn more.

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