The Quaking or Trembling Aspen

Aspens on Kebler Pass

In my previous blog, I shared about the glacial evidence of Kebler Pass (Flood Triggered Ice Age? July 5, 2011). Of course, as a geologist my eye was drawn to the surrounding geology first, but the second thing that really caught my attention was the beautiful Quaking Aspen (aka Trembling Aspen) forests.

A stand of aspen is in actuality only one very large organism. Aspens normally grow in large clonal colonies derived from a single seedling, and then reproduce and spread by root suckers (aka root sprouts).

An individual aspen can send out a large system of roots underground. With enough sunlight, suckers sprout up from the roots. This process continues until a whole stand, of what look like individual trees, forms. The colony of root suckers are one, single, genetic individual, named a clonal colony. Because of a common genetic blueprint, all members of a clone will all have a similar shade of color. In the fall, you can often differentiate individual clonal colonies by their different colors.

Each individual tree (or sucker) can live for 40–150 years above ground, but the root system of the colony is long-lived, continuing to send up new suckers. Aspen colonies are able to survive forest fires. Though the trees themselves might burn, the roots are below the heat, and are able to send up new suckers after the fire.

In Utah, a colony of 47,000 aspen clones covers 110 acres (43 hectares). This colony has been given the nickname of “Pando” (Latin for “I spread”). Using uniformitarian bias at spread rate of 3 feet (1 m.) a year, some have claimed Pando to be 80,000 years old. I would disagree with this age. At the oldest the colony would be about 4400 years old, the approximate time lapse since the Flood. I guess I am also biased … biased towards the historical accuracy of the Bible, the Word of God.

Lanny Johnson

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