Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Secret of the Quaking Aspen

On the other side of my mountain, 
Nature has planted Groves of Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)

Quaking Aspen in Summer

These beautiful trees stand tall and straight
on slender trunks of powdery white.

Photo by Jeff Mitton (since I couldn't find an up-close shot of my own)
Their leaves tremble at the slightest breeze 
and seem to whisper a melody of peace and calm.

Seriously, if you've ever stood in a grove of Aspen,
you would know this to be true...
the sound is nothing short of divine.

Quakies in their Autumn Glory

 As Autumn approaches, these small near-heart-shaped leaves
turn vibrant shades of yellow and gold and orange.

Come take a Sunday drive with me,
and I'll share the secret 
the Aspen Groves hold so dear.

Driving the Alpine Loop

Many people may not realize 
that Aspen trees are actually 
one of the earth’s largest living organisms. 

Hundreds or even thousands of Quaking Aspens 
can be joined underground 
by a single root network.


The Aspen sends out underground shoots 
that re-emerge elsewhere as new trunks.
This aggregate of roots 
is called a "clone".

The Backside of my Mountain
Some Quaking Aspen groves 
have been measured to be 200 acres wide.
Many in the Rocky Mountain and Great Basin regions
are at least 8000 years old 
persisting since the last glacial retreat.


Aspen trees within the same clone 
unmask their colors at the same time in Autumn 
making it easy to determine 
where a clone ends and where it begins.

In fact, the trees within each clone are identical 
and can be distinguished from those of a neighboring clone 
by a variety of traits such as leaf shape and size, bark character, 
branching habit, resistance to disease and insect attack 
and autumn leaf color.

How many distinct clones do you see in this view?

(Some have already changed their colors... others have not.)

It is fascinating to discover that the massive root network 
of the Aspen clone is of great benefit to their survival. 

A forest fire may completely destroy a grove of Aspen trees,
but the underground root network will soon spring to life 
creating new shoots to emerge as trunks 
replenishing the Aspen Grove.


Simply remarkable.

What life lessons can we learn from the Quaking Aspen?

I have a few ideas of my own 
but would love my readers to share.


  1. very interesting! cool!

  2. Thank you, so glad you enjoyed!

  3. I always admired a grove of Aspen. They really make a natural landscape grand.

  4. I've spent a lot of time walking through Aspen Groves... they ARE a grand scene.  But even more so... the sound of the leaves trembling, even at the slightest hint of a breeze, really is nothing short of divine. A wonderful place to clear your mind and activate your senses.

  5. RedHouseGarden BlogJanuary 9, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    Wow, how gorgeous!  That is so cool that they share such a vast communal root network.  That is neat to think that a tree could be partially supported by some roots that are quite far away from it.  It sounds like the story of my life!

  6. Great thought...I'm grateful for that feeling of support in my life as well.

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  8. Stunningly beautiful shots...sigh.  And I love that header shot also.

    I had no idea that Aspen were so interesting.  We have Poplar trees here that look like the Aspen, but no where as exciting.


  9. Ah, such beauty!  How lucky you are living so close to it.  I will always remember my first trip to the Rockies one fall many years ago and the beauty of the Aspens.  

    My mom and her Garden Buddy live in the Driftless region of Wisconsin on the top of their own little mountain, and quaking Aspens are quite plentiful in their woods.  I missed visiting this year before the leaves fell.  I always enjoy being there the most in Autumn when the Aspens are turning.  It's pretty amazing how fast they grow.

  10. carefully trying again. I was looking at photos of our milkweeds today, the huge puffy seedpods that the floral arrangers enjoy!

  11. So glad we figured that out Diana. :)

  12. Gorgeous country you have shared today.  Interesting about the "clone" root system.  That last photo looks like an Autumn Monet, love it!  Haven't been here in a while.  Had some hip repairs and it has been a looong recovery, still am not allowed to garden or drive.  So, I have turned my attention to crafts, can't be still you know, lol.

  13. Take care of yourself, Darla. Hope you're back to your healthy self soon!

  14. The scenery is beautiful. You got some fantastic shots.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  15. Ooh your header is a wonderful picture! Of milkweed seed? 

  16. Yes, it is milkweed. Aren't the seeds enchanting?

  17. Elephant's Eye (sorry Disqus doesn't like me, and won't show the link back to my blog)



  20. Wow, what a wonderful place to live. Breathtaking!!

  21. Thank you. I feel very blessed that it is such a short drive away.

  22. still battling with Disqus. I wonder ... does it now work as it should?


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