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What's the largest plant in the world?
What's the largest plant in the world in terms of weight and also height? Is the only inhibiting factor that determines how big the plants can get gravity?
Aug 10, 2011
Pando, a single male Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) that forms a large clonal colony is considered to be among the oldest of the Earth's living organisms at 80,000 years old and is also known as the largest plant in the world. Although Pando seems to be a large group of individual trees, it is actually a collection of stems or ramets that are connected by one single root system. Pando was declared to be a single organism by the use of identical genetic markers. Even though it can be questioned of Pando's status a single tree depending on how one defines the term “individual tree” the fact that it covers 43 hectares and weighs an estimated 6,000,000 kg. Easily makes it one of the largest organisms and the largest plant on Earth.
As for the record of the highest individual tree, that honor goes to the Sequoia sempervirens or commonly known as the Coast redwood, Giant redwood or the California redwood. The highest of the species is a redwood known as Hyperion discovered in 2006 at the Redwood National Park by Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor and stand at a height of 115.61 M.
In terms of sheer bulk, the largest individual tree is recorded as another redwood, the General Sherman Tree from the Giant Grove a giant sequoia of the species Sequoiadendron giganteum measuring at 83.8 M with a total volume of 1,486.9 sq. meters.
As for the limiting factors of how tall a tree can grow, the primary limiting factor is the tree's tracheids or the vessels that transport water throughout the tree's system. As a tree grows in height the diameter of these tracheids become smaller eventually limiting water reaching at the top or cutting it off altogether. It is believed that this is a survival adaptation of trees as the higher they grow the larger the chance for them to suffer from xylem embolism in which air bubbles develop inside the tracheids (similar to air embolisms in humans) that can potentially harm the plant by blocking the passage of water.
Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Populus_tremuloides http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/botany/tree-grow.htm http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_largest_plant_in_the_world http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pando_(tree) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequoia_sempervirens
Aug 02, 2011
In terms of weight, the Giant Sequoias are considered as the heaviest plants in the world. They can grow to heights of about 295 feet or 90 meters and their trunks span about 30 feet or 9 meters. The largest of this kind is named General Sherman. It has a height of about 275 feet or 84 meters and its trunk diameter measures 35 feet or nearly 11 meters. The estimated weight of the General Sherman is more than 1,400 tons, a huge supply of timber that can be used to construct a hundred and twenty medium-sized homes. If we were to compare the General Sherman with a blue whale – the largest mammal on water, the weight of the General Sherman would equal fifteen grown whales.
Giant Sequoias, however, are not the tallest plants, as another tree species known as Coast Redwoods can grow taller than Giant Sequoias. A Coast Redwood called Hyperion holds the record for the tallest plant with a height that reached 379 feet or 115 meters. Both the Giant Sequoias and the Coast Redwoods grow in California.
Aside from gravity, other inhibiting factors to plant growth are extreme weather conditions and unfavorable environment (examples: very low soil pH, air pollution, no rain, too much sun).
Aug 04, 2011
Thank you for your question.
There are many contenders for the largest organism on earth depending on how you measure it. For example, the honey mushroom in Oregon is said to encompass an area of close to 9 square kilometres. Although it is considered to be comprised of the same genetic makeup, it’s debatable whether it’s the same individual organism.
For the tallest tree currently alive, there are many contenders. According to this site, the tallest redwood is approximately 115m tall (http://www.monumentaltrees.com/en/trees/coastredwood/coastredwood/). However in recent history, this site http://www.natural-environment.com/blog/2008/01/22/tallest-tree-ever-recorded/ lists many eucalypts that have contenders over 150m in height from the 19th century. Did we cut all of them down?
In regards to whether gravity restricts the maximum height of a plant, yes to a degree. According to the oxford scientific journal: http://treephys.oxfordjournals.org/content/27/3/433.full.pdf trees begin to struggle to feed water through their entire system as a result of gravity and simply sheer distance to pump water.
“Additionally, if the tensile strength of water columns is exceeded owing to the “tug of war” between gravity and transpiration, the xylary elements that deliver water may cavitate, resulting in tissue or organ death”
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