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No. 82: Jul-Aug 1992

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The humongous organism contest!

When we read of that 10,000-kilogram fungus discovered in Michigan, it sounded like a good item for Science Frontiers. But then it was described as the "largest and oldest living organism," and we knew that if we waited a couple months this Guinness-like record would be eclipsed. (Superlatives are risky in this business!)

A killer fungus in Washington State. In the foothills of Mount Adams, a specimen of the fungus Armillaria ostoyae covers 1,500 acres and seems to be 400-1,000 years old, as comapred to the 38-acre, 1,500-year-old Michigan fungus. Although younger than its Michigan counterpart, the Washington fungus is lethal and can wipe out whole populations of trees.

(Anonymous; "The Great Fungus," Nature, May 21, 1992.)

Comment. It has also been reported that a huge, spreading, pathological growth exists in Washington, DC!

Some even more humongous plants.

"A grass clone, Holcus mollis, has been found with a diameter of 900 metres and an age of over 1000 years. A clone of box-huckleberry has been found with a diameter of 2000 metres and an age of 13 000 years. The big granddaddy is, however, an aspen (Populus fremaloides) covering 81 hectares and over 10 000 years old."

(Bullock, James; "Huge Organisms," New Scientist, p. 54, May 30, 1992.)

From Science Frontiers #82, JUL-AUG 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss