We drove up to the top of the ski mountain to see the aspen trees which are in their full glory right now. Ander and Jim told me that the aspens grow from one main tree! So I looked Aspen up on wikipedia and they are an incredible plant!
All the aspens typically grow in large colonies derived from a single seedling, and spreading by means of root suckers; new stems in the colony may appear at up to 30–40 m from the parent tree. Each tree only lives for 40–150 years above ground, but the root system of the colony is long-lived, in some cases for many thousands of years, sending up new trunks as the older trunks die off above ground. For this reason it is considered to be an indicator of ancient woodlands. One such colony in Utah, given the nickname of “Pando”, is claimed to be 80,000 years old, making it possibly the oldest living colony.
Why do they quake?
The unusual ability of the leaves of Populus to twist and bend due to the flattened petioles may not be fully understood. It is thought to help protect the trees from severe winds, perhaps by helping dissipate energy more uniformly throughout the canopy. It is also thought to improve the rate of photosynthesis throughout the tree by reducing the exposure of the outer leaves to extreme sunlight (thus reducing photoinhibition) by presenting the leaves at an oblique angle to the sun throughout the day, while at the same time allowing more light through to the lower leaves which are generally overshaded. This would enable leaves throughout the tree to photosynthesize more efficiently.
The aspen tree’s quivering leaves are, in Christian lore, said to be the result of arrogance at the Crucifixion because the aspen did not tremble like other trees. A German version claims that the aspen was the only tree to refuse to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus. Another old saying was that aspen leaves are made from female tongues, and their quivering is due to women’s inability to stop talking.
The wood is white, and soft, but fairly strong, and with very low flammability. It has a number of uses, notably for making matches, where its low flammability makes it safer to use (easy to blow out) than most other woods. Heat treated aspen is a popular material for the interiors of a sauna.