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The Largest Living Organism on Earth

08 January 2022

Lessons from Creation – part 2 – The Greatest Living Organism on Earth

Having lost two Christmases in a row to Covid (the threat of Covid with the ensuing lockdown last year and then the real thing this year) I’m certain we can learn lots of lessons from Creation. Wouldn’t it be better to learn from Creation without the school of life “detention” so many of us have had to endure?

Here, in the spirit of “retention” rather than “detention”, I’m delighted to share one of the treasures I discovered during our second enforced confinement. YouTube is very good at suggesting content, and thus it came to pass that I was recommended to look at “It’s Okay To Be Smart.” This is a science channel but not as I did science at school – no, this is cool!

The rather charismatic lead presenter did a video on being inside the largest organism on earth. Can you guess what it is?


I was fooled!

I was wrong!

I wasn’t even close!


I thought about long-necked Sauropods, and then the Blue Whale, and then the Sequoia – the Californian Redwood Tree. Spoiler alert… the answer is below.

The answer is a ‘stand’ – which looks like a wood or forest – of “Quaking Aspen” trees. These charming trees – whose leaves wave like those of Poplar trees but whose trunks look like Silver Birch - are the largest, heaviest, and oldest organisms on Earth.

The biggest we are aware of has been named, “Pando.”  Pando covers an area as large as over 100 American Football Fields. Pando is over 80,000 years old!

OK, like me, you may be forgiven for thinking, “Hang on, a wood doesn’t count!” The surprising truth is that Pando is ONE organism – technically one root system with multiple clones as trunks! Quaking Aspen are highly unusual. With thousands of trunks, they look like a wood but the truth is that it really is a single root system that puts up new trunks when old ones are destroyed. This means this living organism can withstand forest fires because the new growth comes from the roots which remain safe beneath the soil. In fact, adverse surface conditions help Pando renew itself – as it has done over 80,000 years!

What can we learn from Pando as a community of believers or as the One Body of Christ?

Metaphorically, roots have always been ‘values’ for me. As such, I wonder if there is a lesson for us in Pando’s root system? Could we use the fruit of the Spirit as pointers to a possible shared root system?


What roots support the nine aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit?


What is the root of Love?

What is the root of Joy?

What is the root of Peace?

What is the root of Patience?

What is the root of Kindness?

What is the root of Goodness?

What is the root of Faith?

What is the root of Gentleness?

What is the root of Self-Mastery?



The phrase “Fruit of the Spirit” is surely a clue?  All these facets of the Fruit of the Spirit flow from the Spirit – the One Spirit.  We know for a fact that, “God has poured out His Love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit Whom He has given us.”  (See Romans 5:5 – in the context of “Hope” which, surprisingly, isn’t listed as a Fruit.)


We also know that Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of God – see Romans 10:17.  Faith comes most likely from hearing the uttered Word of God (i.e. hearing it out loud).


At the root of the whole Christian experience is what goes on at the heart level.  The Holy Spirit is in our hearts and our development to maturity is regularly nurtured by the Word of God spoken out loud.  This means preaching, Bible Study, and listening to the Word Spoken – the Spoken Word.


The right roots make us invincible and effective as a community.  The Life flows from the roots.

This is what really excites me about Pando.  It is Pando’s root system that shares resources across vast distances – it communes!  If one part of the ‘Stand’ is dry or hungry, another part of the root network sends it water and food.  I’m sure its immune system works in a similar way.  Again, this is a metaphor for bearing one another’s burdens and so fulfilling the Law of Christ.

At Swanage United Reformed Church, as with other effective Living Communions, we are neither one organism nor do we have an exact match of values, but we do share enough in common to help one another when there’s a need. Of course, we need to know when you or I need help, so let’s not be shy about shouting out when you need a bit of extra support.

Mission Enabler


Ps. It will not surprise you to learn that Pando is under threat because of Climate Change and the other consequences of poor stewardship by Humans.  I believe the Church too, is under threat from our own changing environment.  The key to our survival is to rapidly adapt, and, crucially, learn from failure.  We must try boldy, fail fast, and learn rapidly so that we can try and try again.  This will not always feel comfortable… in fact the times it does feel comfortable will most likely mean we are not trying courageously enough.


There may be trouble ahead, but while there’s moonlight, and music from our Worship Team, and Communion, and acts of lovingkindness… I’m certain we’ll be able to face the music and dance like King David danced.




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