Australia claims sea grass species as largest plant, apparently forgetting about Pando and Kebler Aspen groves
The findings are fascinating, but don’t begin to stack up against local Aspen groves
DENVER, Colo. (KJCT) - On Tuesday of this week, a report was released that made the bold claim that Australian seagrass outdoes our own local arsenal of colossal clonal arboreal icons in size. The alleged usurper to the botanical crown is Poseidon’s Ribbon Weed, also known as Posidonia australis.
The claim comes from University of Western Australia Ph.D. candidate Jane Edgeloe, who made the discovery as part of a genetic survey in Shark Bay, Australia. Edgeloe and her team collected samples of the grass and, upon comparing the sample’s DNA, discovered that their genetic code was nearly identical. In other words, Poseidon’s Ribbon Weed is a clone of a single plant that has been cloning itself for close to 4,500 years.
However, Colorado Governor Jared Polis disagrees. The devil, he argues, is in the details. While Poseidon’s Ribbon Weed is a clonal species, the plant is not interconnected as Aspen groves are. Aspen groves are not made of multiple plants, but rather gargantuan root networks intertwining beneath tens of thousands of genetically identical trees over hundreds of acres.
In other words, you’ve never walked through an Aspen grove because the entire area is the Aspen tree. You’ve walked upon the back of an organism the size of a city block.
Seagrass does not share that trait. Its root systems are not connected, nor do they run as deep as Aspen roots. The seagrass clones are also not nearly as old as some Aspen groves, with Pando being nearly 20,000 years older than the seagrass.
The title for largest plant is contested between the Pando and Kebler aspen groves, as their size is difficult to accurately gauge given that the majority of the plant is underground. However, for the moment, Pando retains the crown.
“Pando,” meaning “I Spread” in Latin, is likely the largest and most dense living organism ever discovered. The clone spreads over 106 acres, consisting of nearly 50,000 individual trees. Pando’s exact age is difficult to determine, but it is estimated to have started during the end of the last ice age, meaning it’s likely close to 25,000 years old.
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