Friends of Pando Logo

Friends of Pando

Media Resources

Introduction

The following information and resources provide writers and content creators with accurate information about the Pando tree and Friends of Pando activities. The page is organized as follows:

  • Friends of Pando Overview
  • 2022 Season Press Briefing
  • The Challenges of Communicating “Pando”
  • Introducing the Pando Tree
  • Pando: Fact and Fiction
  • Images for your Articles

Friends of Pando Overview

media resources Friends of Pando logo - stacked color

2022 Season Press Briefing

Download our 2022 Season Guide to learn about all our work through the 2022 season including key announcements, partners, programs and work schedule.

Packed with links, briefs and insights on what we are doing and our vision, start here if you are interested in covering a story about our work in 2022.

The Challenges of Communicating About Pando

Friends of Pando believes that those who write about the tree also have a role to play in the future and long term health of the tree. We’ve designed these media resources to empower writers to help the public understand the science and the complexity of the issues involved.

 

As a relatively recent discovery, one of the primary challenges of writing about Pando, is how little we actually know about the tree. Complicating matters is the fact that until Friends of Pando got underway, there was no group dedicated solely to Pando and the land it calls home.  Prior to Friends of Pando, nearly all stories about the tree originated from groups who have no long-term ties to the community where decision-making and the work that needs be done, must happen, in the land Pando calls home.

 

Today, false, inaccurate and misleading information about Pando discourages interest and dilutes a sense of shared ownership. After all, if the tree were actually 80,000 years old (in effect, immortal, which it is not), or conversely, is doomed to die (it is not) -why should anyone care to support research, stewardship, or care about the human experience of the tree?

 

To that end, the media resources provided here are designed to help journalists separate fact from fiction. We also hope to help them understand the broad variety of issues, concerns, groups and activities working to ensure Pando can be preserved and enjoyed for generations to come.

Introducing the Pando Tree

Learn about the tree

Read the “What is the Pando Tree“. The text in this article provides a broad overview about the tree, its discovery, the land it calls home and the human story of the tree. The text of that overview is also what is featured on exhibits Friends of Pando has designed. (Lance Oditt, Paul Rogers and Nick Mustoe)

Articles about Pando

You can visit “The Pando Tree” page for a growing list of articles, insights and commentaries about the tree that have been created by respected scientists, commentators and authorities in their domain.  (Various)

Science of Pando Guide

In addition to the above resources, Friends of Pando has collated the following citations of existing cultural and scientific documents about Pando and the land it calls home. You can download  a PDF of this guide below.

Curious, Spurious and Unverifiable Claims about Pando
(and other lifeforms like it)

Updated: June 2, 2022

Providing accurate information about the tree is part of the Friends of Pando mission. Refuting false, inaccurate and misleading information is equally important. Below is a list of commonly misreported information and the corresponding clarifications. Before syndicating articles or quoting “facts” from other articles, we encourage you see if that item is on the list below. If you have other questions, feel free to use our contact page and we will work with you to substantiate the claim or connect you with someone who has more expertise in that area.

media resources - false icon

False, Inaccurate, or Misleading

media resources - true icon

Fact

Pando is 40,000 or 80,000 years old

This statement is false and misleading since there is no way to reliably test Pando’s age. Many scientists believe Pando could not be any older than 8,000 to 12,000 years old, since ice age era weather currents made the area inhospitable. 

Pando is 106 acres

This statement is inaccurate and possibly misleading. Pando spans an area of around 106 acres but not all of that area is visible to humans nor, actively regenerating. The most recent maps, created by Paul Rogers and Daren McAvoy, shows the “visible” size to be about 103 acres. We do not know the extent of Pando’s activity below ground.

Pando is located in the Wasatch Mountains

This statement inaccuratePando lives beneath Fishlake Hightop and Mytoge Mountain on the boundary of the Basin and Range and Colorado Plateau ecological provinces. It is important to note, some locals consider this area part of the “spine” of the Wasatch Mountains as this mountain group overlaps with a variety ranges that appear connected,  but geologically speaking, are not.

Pando is not the world’s largest tree

This statement is false and misleading. Pando is five times larger in by dry weight than the next largest tree, a Sequoia giganticum named General Sherman . Pando is also twice the size of the next largest Aspen Clone (106 acres versus 47 acres). Distinctions made by forestry and botanical organizations about the “largest plants” vary considerably between scientific domains of expertise. They also vary between scientific groups around the world. Pando is the largest tree when measured by multiple standards (type, area and weight), which is not true of any other tree.

Pando is the world’s largest organism

The use of the word “organism” is misleading. Although Pando challenges traditional notions of what a tree is, or, what a tree can be, there is no question that Pando is a tree. The use of the word “organism” leads people to believe there is some comparison between Pando and other clonal lifeforms that are not trees. Lifeforms which may be bigger in a single dimension (ex: area), but not across all the dimensions that describe a tree operating on Pando’s scale.   

The Humongous Fungus is larger than Pando

This statement is inaccurate and misleading along multiple lines. First, multiple fungal bodies bear the name “Humongous Fungus” (Oregon and Michigan each have one, and another “mega-fungus” has been reported in Italy). Secondly, in terms of raw size, Pando is over 14 times larger by weight than the estimated weight of the “Humongous Fungus” of Michigan. Weight estimates for the Oregon “Humongous fungus” vary. Third, the statement compares two unrelated “organisms” (see above) where methods and classification systems between botany and mycology vary considerably.

Pando is dying

This statement is false and misleading. Pando continues to regenerate itself. Research by Paul Rogers indicates deer and other ungulates stymie Pandos’ growth, but as a recent discovery in a class of its own, we do not yet know the rate of regeneration we might expect for Pando considering all other factors human and non-human.  In simple terms, research by Sam St. Clair suggests the “tilting” point of shrinkage that marks imminent death is about 60% total area, which is not anywhere near the level of “shrinking” we see with Pando while regeneration continues.

We could just clone Pando to solve its problems

This statement is false and misleading. We cannot clone the Pando because what makes Pando unique is how it operates as a whole in its homeland.

Pando lives in a wilderness area

This is false, Pando lives an in an area designated for recreation. The land Pando calls home has been used for recreational purposes for some 1,500 years. Furthermore, the land Pando calls home would not qualify as wilderness by any existing designation for wilderness we have today.

The Forest Service isn’t doing anything

This is misleading and false. The Forest Service led the effort to begin to protect Pando in the 1980’s and continues to support a wide variety of efforts to protect it today. You can read an overview of their work on the tree here.

The Forest Service wants to tear Pando out so
they can set up more recreation

This is misleading and inaccurate. The Fishlake National Forest recognizes Pando in their planning documents as a special place they want to protect.

Cattle grazing is destroying Pando

This is misleading for a number of reasons. First, the majority of Pando is protected by a fence (around 53 acres) – cattle are forbidden in those areas and discouraged in other areas. Second, some studies on the impact of grazing have not been verified through peer reviewed processes. We encourage media professionals to request documents which are available to the public through the Forest Service and or, to contact the actual ranching groups before making such claims since ranching and water rights are “hot button” issues in the Inter-mountain West.

Tourism is destorying Pando

This is misleading and should be considered a position and not factual for a number of reasons: First, no one lives in and around Pando year round – in this way, everyone is a tourist. Second, no independently verified data exists about actual human usage of Pando’s one marked trail. Third, this claim marginalizes a variety of successful policies that have been employed to great success by other National Forests and Park lands to protect special trees from human use. Finally, tourism is a “hot button” whose discussion,   marginalizes the fact that historically speaking, Utah has experienced multiple periods of time where the land has become inhospitable to most sustained human uses. 

Fencing will protect Pando

This is misleading.  Deer and elk have done severe damage to the tree, and fencing helps keep them out, but deer are not the only problem. Pando is also fighting three diseases, about which we have no independently verified data on how to approach and resolve. Expanded fencing will help, but fencing alone will not solve the challenges ahead. It will require a concerted effort on all fronts and likely, generations of collaboration.

Pando and Climate Change

We have received a number of calls inquiring about climate change and Pando. To date, there have not been any peer reviewed studies about Pando and climate change. Safely assuming Pando is  thousands of years old (8,000-12,000 years), cursory research on climate in Utah indicates Pando has survived multiple severe and even catastrophic droughts that have spanned centuries. Friends of Pando has convened a science committee which will explore monitoring options to better understand what role weather and climate variables play in Pando’s health.

Lets set wolves loose to solve the deer problem…

This is false and misleading. In social media posts and comment sections of news stories about Pando, one can often find suggestions that wolves could somehow help solve the deer and elk problem, as was seen at Yellowstone National Park some years ago with the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone after destruction of riparian lands. 

 

For the Fishlake Basin, introducing wolves is neither practical nor, sustainable because of what we know about wolves and the surrounding lands. First, wolves are highly territorial. Assuming a wolf pack was introduced and stayed, there would likely only be one pack in an area this small, which is not nearly enough to create the kind of predatory pressure needed to keep deer and elk in check. Second, wolves roam; packs have a range of 50 square miles or more while Fishlake Basin is only 10 square miles, and Pando makes up only a small fraction of that. Third, wolves are very shy about human contact and Fishlake Basin is a well-visited recreation land with an official designation as such.  Finally, it is worthwhile to keep in mind, predatory pressures are cyclical and must be sustained to remain effective. Wolves are simply not a sustainable solution.

Hunting can solve the deer and elk problem

For some years now, there have been discussions about allowing hunting by the general public or, by specially trained sharpshooters to help curb deer populations. Today, various local, state and federal policies forbid recreational hunting in and, around Pando while nearby protected lands create natural corridors that provide safe passage for deer to roam in and out of Pando’s homeland virtually unabated. A sustainable plan for deer and elk management would involve consideration of all these factors and not just the killing of deer we see in Pando’s home. Although there is no question more needs to be done to discourage deer and elk, to date, no one has presented a workable, peer-reviewed model nor policy framework to employ hunting alongside other methods such as fencing and active monitoring to solve the problem.

Pando is no longer the largest organism, sea grass is.

We expected and indeed, have received a number of inquiries about the discovery of a  sea grass presently nicknamed Posieden’s Ribbon Weed (Posidonia australis). A sea grass clone in Australia which spans 47 square miles.  In 2012, a related sea grass (Posidonia oceanica) was found to be the same estimated weight as Pando, so it was only a matter of time until Pando had a seafaring cousin in stature.

Friends of Pando welcomes the spirit of discovery that inspired these finds and congratulates the team on the hard work. As initial research also indicates those plants are vulnerable, we wish their research team luck as they work to understand how to preserve them as incomparable representatives to nature’s imagination. In the meantime, we will stick to trees.

Note on Sources: We do not share third party contact information without the express permission of that party. We would be happy to refer you to direct sources and answer any other questions you may have via our Contact Us page.

 

Images for Your Article

The following images may be used with permission and proper citation for scientifically accurate stories and articles related to Friends of Pando and the Pando tree. Please send email to media at friendsofpando dot org for large scale images for print publications.

Pando Tree
Credit Lance Oditt | friendsofpando.org | Click Image to Download
Colored Image of Pando Outline
Aerial view of Pando's Land Mass | Credit: Lance Oditt, friendsofpando.org | GIS Map: Paul Rogers | Right click image to Download

© 2022  | Design : Hope Smith  &  Lance Oditt