Quaking Aspen: The Largest Living Organism!
The Quaking Aspen is a delight of color, movement and sound. It is a fast growing tree with striking, iconic white bark. In Autumn, its stunning yellow foliage brightens the landscape and has found its way onto many a calendar page and magazine cover. The slightest breeze will cause the leaves of this tree to tremble or "quake", thus the name.
The leaves are eaten by snowshoe hare, deer, and elk. It’s also is an important food supply and building material for beaver and grouse depend on the buds for winter food. It’s also a host to a wide range of birds and butterflies.
Among the trees, the Quaking Aspen has several amazing claims to fame! First, it has the widest natural range of any tree in North America, spanning 47 degrees of latitude (equal to half the distance from the equator to the North Pole), 110 degrees of longitude (nine time zones) and elevations from sea level to timberline. It also holds the amazing title of being the largest living organism! The reason is that aspens grow in stands (called clones) and reproduce primarily by sending up sprouts from their roots. This means that virtually all the trees in a clone are connected. One clone in Utah was observed to have 47,000 stems. It's estimated that this interlinked organism weighs 6,000 tons. While individual aspen trees live a vigorous 100-150 years, a clone in Minnesota has been estimated to be 8,000 years old, making it one of the oldest living things on earth!