Pando: The World’s Largest Living Organism is in Southern Utah

Things to Do, What's New — By julietrevelyan on September 28, 2010 at 12:45 am

You read that right. The world’s (the world! The entire shebang!) largest living organism is to be found right here in southern Utah. Crazy, huh?

I’ll give you a couple of guesses. Well, can’t be a blue whale, no oceans here anymore. (Although an ancient ocean did cover this area millions of years ago, leaving behind cool things such as fossilized oyster shells and sharks’ teeth that can be found today.) Is it the Great Barrier Reef? A giant fungus? (Yes, that one is particularly sexy.) Perhaps the giant sequoia trees of northern California?

Nope to all of the above. The world’s largest living organism, according to some generally accepted data, is…an aspen grove in southern Utah named Pando.

this is probably not Pando, but these are aspen trees at Fish Lake

You heard me. Aspen grove, as in trees. Didn’t know aspen groves could get that big? Here’s the cool thing about them: the root system is connected. They’re all one tree, because each shoot and “sucker” is cloned from the parent. Nifty, eh?

Coming from Latin for “I spread,” Pando, also poetically known as the Trembling Giant, is found somewhere (rangers are vague about exact location) in Fishlake National Forest, near the popular Fish Lake recreation area. About 49 miles north of Capitol Reef National Park, now is a spectacular time to visit, because the fall colors are turning at breathtaking rates of beauty. Male, weighing in at an approximate 6,600 tons and counting anywhere from 80,000 to 800,000 years in age depending on who’s guessing, Pando shares his space with abundant wildlife and other vegetation in one of the country’s most gorgeous, remote spots. I live nearby, so I can vouch for that.

Cool Tidbit:

-The U.S. Postal Service put Pando on a stamp, part of the 2006 “40 Wonders of America” series.

Distances to Pando, which is located off Highway 25, which is off Highway 24, which is off Interstate 70:

From Arches National Park: 199 miles (approx.)

From Bryce Canyon National Park: 114 miles (approx.)

From Canyonlands National Park: 215 miles (approx.)

From Zion National Park: 164 miles (approx.)

From Moab: 205 miles (approx.)

If you’re checking out southern Utah’s treasures, stop by and snap a picture. It’s not every day you can say you were rubbing shoulders with the world’s largest organism.

[Photos courtesy of Ken Lund, Julie Trevelyan.]

Tags: Arches, aspen grove, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, moab, Pando, Utah, Zion