WASATCH ENVIRONMENTAL UPDATE: “Pando is Not Doing Well, Snif”     

Wasatch Environmental Update for March 25, 2018

By John Worlock

Pando is Not Doing Well, Snif


I have had a long and pleasant relationship with the family of trees called populus.  First of all there was a line of populus nigra, known as Lombardy Poplars, sheltering the house I grew up in from the western winds in central Nebraska.  My grand-dad had planted those trees long before I was born and even before our house was built.

We took our vacations in Colorado, from the time I was a toddler.  One of the pleasures of those trips to the mountains was to look upon the groves of what we called aspens, but that I know now were members of the species called Populus tremuloides, also called quaking aspens.  The cold weather and the reduced sunlight of late summer in the higher elevations took the green chlorophyll out of the leaves, leaving them a brilliant yellow, some of them verging on orange and even a deep red, rivaling the colors of sugar maples in New England.

I now live with a grove of tremuloides in my front yard.  What started out 18 years ago as five trees has now become eight. The new trees are, of course, clones of the original trees.  They simply sprang up from rhizomes in advantageous spots in the lawn.   It’s always a pleasure to trim the new trees, and watch them respond with new growth.  It’s also a pleasure to know that they were not only cost free, but didn’t even require me to dig holes and pamper them to adulthood.

Why are we suddenly talking about aspens?

My friends at Save Our Canyons have established a working relationship with the Western Aspen Alliance, an outfit that has been studying the threats to the aspens in the western states  One of their clients, of course, is the huge grove of cloned aspens covering 106 acres near Fish Lake in southern Utah.  It is called Pando, and is said to be the largest living being on earth. You’d think that a being that large knows how to take care of itself.  Far from it, since there are now cattle, deer and elk helping themselves hungrily to the shoots.  To keep Pando healthy, we’ll have to keep the cattle out and bring in some wolves to control the ungulate population.

We’ll talk more about aspens in future updates.

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