2715: Pando

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The presents under the tree are actually a single gift connected by an underground ribbon system.
Title text: The presents under the tree are actually a single gift connected by an underground ribbon system.


Pando is a quaking aspen tree colony in Fishlake National Forest, Utah. Depending on the measurement method,[1] Pando is the largest living organism on earth, and is thereby also the largest tree on earth. By dry mass (mass not including water), Pando is the largest living thing humans have found. There is one fungus in Oregon which may weigh more including water, but a fungus is not a tree.

Pando is a tree colony, a type of clonal colony made of trees. Clonal colonies all form from the same seed or other origin, and are all genetically identical. Tree colonies spread using their extensive root system. Under all trees are roots, which gather nutrients and water from soil. On clonal trees (such as the quaking aspen, Pando's species), when roots from one tree surface they can form another stalk/tree, remaining the same genetic stock; this is unlike propagation by seeds. This clone then grows its own root network and is part of the clonal colony. Crucially, the linking roots between 'generations' of the plant do not naturally separate, so all effective clones stay attached. Each such stalk still has an individually limited lifespan of decades to centuries, but the colony can persist and propagate in this manner for millennia. For example, the only known wild example of Lomatia tasmanica, also known as King's lomatia, is a clonal shrub thought to be at least 43,600 years old, and Pando itself is thought to be around 14,000 years old.

Christmas is a celebration on the 25th of December, traditionally commemorating the birth of Jesus. The celebration is often claimed to be built heavily upon pagan traditions,[2] (though this is disputed by some historians[3]) as well as on annual social customs. It has evolved into a more secular event for many. This comic was published on the 23rd of December, two days before Christmas, or Christmas Eve Eve.

The concept of a Christmas tree is rooted in various pre-Christian folkloric traditions and, in the modern era, may be adapted or adopted as desired by local and personal circumstances. It need not be an evergreen tree with an angel or star atop, though that is the oft-depicted image, but can be any handy plant or artificial substitute strewn with decorations and/or lights as the owner wishes. People and places often compete to hold the record for the largest Christmas tree. At time of writing, the officially tallest Christmas tree was a 64.36 m (221 ft) tall Douglas-fir that was displayed in Northgate Shopping Center,[actual citation needed] Seattle, WA in 1950.[4][5] The one with the most area is likely the Christmas tree display in Gubbio, a town in Umbria, Italy, where hundreds of trees on a mountain face are lit up with light to form a Christmas tree shape.

In this comic, Randall proposes putting Christmas lights all the way around Pando to turn it into (technically) a Christmas tree. As Pando is the world's largest tree, if this plan were carried out, it would safely take the record for largest Christmas tree and hold it for quite some time. In the inset map, Randall has drawn the path of the Christmas lights as a convex hull around the edge of Pando. Roughly tracing Pando on Google Maps reveals its perimeter to be roughly 2.77 km or 1.72 miles, or roughly 9,000 ft. Allowing a little wiggle-room for differing levels of accuracy, and possibly the extra length required to suspend the shallow catenary loops of the lights and wrap them around the various supporting branches, 9,300 ft of Christmas lights seems about right.

The title text suggests that similarly to how trees that make up Pando are interconnected by underground roots, the gifts under the proposed Christmas tree are interconnected by underground ribbons. It may also be a reference to fungus, which often grow beneath trees, and can be connected by vast underground mycelial networks, suggesting that the christmas presents are the fruiting bodies of a similar network (perhaps a reference to 2246: Christmas Presents).


[The main comic frame is a profile view of a number of separated trees, of varying heights and maturity, across each of which (of those with sufficient height) has apparently been draped a single chain of decorative lights that goes from off-image at one side to off-image at the other.]
[Inset in the bottom right is a mini-map implicating that these light-linked 'trees' are actually all risers from a single large superorganism (as a shaded complex but contiguous shape labelled "Pando"), the map has a "N"orth pointer, a scale bar indicating the length of "1,000 ft" (approximately a third of the shaded mass's full width) and a convex hull perimeter line tightly fitting the shaded area that has an indicative arrow from a label informing us that its length would be "9,300 ft".]
[Caption below:] Christmas Science Fact: Pando is approximately 9,300 feet of lights away from being the world's largest Christmas Tree.

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Mass is around 6 million kg. Area is 43.6 ha. In SI units, that's 436,000 square metres... but I'd be tempted to say "over 400,000".

c/f https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Ingino_Christmas_Tree

I was about to write the following as a first explanation, but by the time I'd drafted it, there already was one. Anyway, here it is,

Pando is a large colony of aspen trees in Utah, USA, which are all natural clones, connected by a root system. It is the largest single living organism by mass, at around 6 million kilograms.

Randall postulates that, if wrapped in fairy lights, it would count as the world's largest Christmas Tree, surpassing others such as Mount Ingino. 12:24, 23 December 2022 (UTC)

How do you add pictures? There are some things here which a piture would be great for, but I don't know how. I'll check the manual later if I don't get a reply. SqueakSquawk4 (talk) 12:33, 23 December 2022 (UTC)

According to scientist, this is the largest living organism: https://theconversation.com/meet-the-worlds-largest-plant-a-single-seagrass-clone-stretching-180-km-in-western-australias-shark-bay-184056 12:58, 23 December 2022 (UTC)

It doesn't say organism.
Sea grass clones split up into separate entities.
The point about Pando is, it's all connected.
-- 13:26, 23 December 2022 (UTC)

I like the attitude of article about biggest organism (the fungus): What is the organism most likely to survive climate change and how it tastes. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:45, 23 December 2022 (UTC)

I hit an Edit Conflict in which my change was in the same (sub-)part of the Conflict text as outright dismissed the pre-Christian origins of a Christmas (or pre-Christmas seasonal) tree as having no proof, but with no citation itself. The whole basis of the Saint Boniface episode (or at least the inspiration that forked its telling), as included in the links already there, and the acknowledged existence of such midwinter tree-veneration (forerunner of apple-wassailing, etc; not directly linked, but a short wikihop away) makes me think you cannot so easily deny the roots (NPI!) in 'pagan' worship and go on to claim that only under the influence of the new religion was the spark of wintery tree-veneration. So I didn't spend much effort on mingling my new bits and the 'old new' bits. But it seems useful to note that it was mentioned. Perhaps with a hedged 'cite' towards any mainstream doubts/contraindications, original re-editor can slip it back into whatever form that bit of the explanation has reached by then. 14:40, 23 December 2022 (UTC)

The main thing that Christmass took from pagan celebration is DATE. There are no reasons to think Jesus was born in December, much less specifically on 25th, and several good arguments why he wasn't. Meanwhile, pagan celebrations of winter solstice are quite easy to prove when they were. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:45, 23 December 2022 (UTC)

Sidenote (moved from explanation): A lot of articles say that the Gubbio tree has a Guinness world record. However, I can't find a citation for that. If anyone can, please add it. That would be appreciated.

Wow! This explanation is really well done! I thought I was looking at a Good-Class Wikipedia article for a bit there! (also, is the crapper 2.0 gone now?) 22:59, 23 December 2022 (UTC)Bumpf

This is a terrible sentence: "The celebration is often claimed to be built heavily upon pagan traditions,[2] though this is disputed by some historians[3], as well as on annual social customs, then arguably converted into a far more secular event for many." 05:41, 24 December 2022 (UTC)

Like "a camel is a horse designed by committee", it was through multiple edits, as varying views were inserted.
It would also help if instead of some kind of statement of fact,[bare_reference], it was more some kind of statement [text_reference of fact],, IMO, but the last edit I made to that bit myself was before some of this increasing need to qualify the qualifying statements and made it obvious that concensus hadn't settled down yet.
Definitely prime for a minor rewrite of that snippet. Reorganise, split concepts, perhaps even lose something (arguable what, though, and it might be reinserted) as one simplifies. Not gonna be me doing it, right now, but perhaps only for time reasons. Anyone can try, though, and as likely to be improving as anybody else. 12:30, 24 December 2022 (UTC)

OpenStreetMap has an outline

The explanation currently links to Google Maps with an outline. OpenStreetMap has a much smaller area marked as the forest: https://www.openstreetmap.org/way/677753549#map=18/38.52463/-111.75065 Which is correct? Should OSM be updated? The OSM geometry can be used in the Wikipedia article, if it's correct. (Maybe this wiki could even embed a map? I'm not sure what it supports.) 08:16, 25 December 2022 (UTC)

Is'nt this linked to Disney's Christmas offering this year - Strange World - in some way seeing as in the film they grow something called Pando, which turns out to be one large colony. Also Pando glows a bit like christmas lights. 17:15, 25 December 2022 (UTC)

Not familiar with Disney's thing. But sounds like they also (separately and differently) were inspired by the real Pando.
I wuldn't know if Randall got to know of real!Pando only via disney!Pando and then had his own idea, but I'd probably default to thinking it was just a random thing he already knew (or learnt a tid-bit about from a random wikiwalk?) and ended up putting into his 'ideas that would work with a Christmas comic' folder... 22:15, 25 December 2022 (UTC)

I feel like there's an element of the Coastline paradox at play here in that only 9,300 ft. of lights would be a pretty conservative estimate. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coastline_paradox -- DJXD (talk) 18:09, 27 December 2022 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Because it clearly wraps around the extremities (see the Convex Hull wikilink), even some fractal nature of the 'actual' border doesn't give a lim->inf perimeter. 22:41, 27 December 2022 (UTC)

But how many LEDs and watts is that?

So I happened to be flipping through these articles (just for the bonus entertainment factor) and I wondered, how many LEDs and Watts would this need to use?

I happen to still have my christmas lights up, and on so I just walked out with a kill-a-watt and measured them. For 100 C9 LEDs with 65.3 ft, it's 4.9 watts.

So some simple math and 9300 feet becomes 142.4 strings, so 143 strings, or 14300 Lights, and that's only 700.7 Watts.

Surprisingly reasonable, considering some of the massive displays in the past with incandescents would have used that much on a single house. (talk) 05:28, 13 January 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The coward didn't wrap any of the inner trees. What a wimp. (joke) Psychoticpotato (talk) 18:33, 3 May 2024 (UTC)