Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Clones do exist

Big-Toothed Aspen Drawing by Trudy 
The Big-Toothed Aspen, Populus grandidentata, is a common tree in New Paltz and Gardiner, where I found my leaves.  When I saw the leaves scattered about all through the dried grass , the bushes, and the stones, I thought they were from the Quaking Aspen, but then I noticed the deep-toothed leaves that are the marker for a close relative, the Big-Toothed Aspen.  The leaves are simple, alternate, and ovate in shape.  One interesting characteristic is the flattened petiole or stem, which is what makes it tremble in the wind.  Aspens are dioecious, with male and female flowers on different trees. The Aspen is known as a pioneer tree—after fires or harvest—the roots of the dead or cut tree will send up suckers along long lateral roots, creating identical trees or an aggregate called a “clone.” All the trees in a clone have the same features and share a root structure--Think "Orphan Black."  Aspen clones can be less than an acre and up to 100 acres in size.  There can be one clone in an aspen grove or many.   This is a characteristic of most aspens.  So aspens are important trees for regenerating forests and fields. It is also interesting that when an aspen tree dies, chemical signals from the tree to the roots stimulate new sprouts.  So the clone survives even though individual trees die.  Clones can live to be hundred of years old: According to the USDA Forest Service,  the oldest aspen clone is the “Pando” clone in Utah which is over 100 acres in size, weighs more than 14 million pounds, and is thought to be around 80,000 years old.   Deer, bears, and rabbits browse the aspens for food and especially birds use the bark, twigs, and buds as food.  In the autumn, the Big-toothed Aspen is particularly beautiful when the bright green leaves turn to gold, apricot, red, and orange.  They were irresistible to me, and I gathered up a big bunch to draw. 

No comments:

Post a Comment