Biggest Plant On Earth

The Posidonia australis seagrass meadow in Shark Bay, Western Australia. Photograph: Rachel Austin/UWA

We have posted several times about the world’s largest living thing. Since fungi are a different category of life, that leaves room for something to be classified as the largest living plant. Thanks to Graham Readfearn for this Guardian article pointing out to us what that thing is, and where:

The plant’s spread can be seen in this aerial view of Shark Bay. Photograph: Angela Rossen

Scientists discover ‘biggest plant on Earth’ off Western Australian coast

Genetic testing has determined a single 4,500-year-old seagrass may have spread over 200 sq km of underwater seafloor – about 20,000 football fields

About 4,500 years ago, a single seed – spawned from two different seagrass species – found itself nestled in a favourable spot somewhere in what is now known as Shark Bay, just off Australia’s west coast.

Left to its own devices and relatively undisturbed by human hands, scientists have discovered that seed has grown to what is now believed to be the biggest plant anywhere on Earth, covering about 200 sq km (77 sq miles, or about 20,000 rugby fields, or just over three times the size of Manhattan island).

The species – a Posidonia australis, also known as fibre-ball weed or ribbon weed – is commonly found along the southern coastlines of Australia.

But when scientists started looking for genetic differences in ribbon weed across the bay, they came across a puzzle. Samples taken from sites that were 180km apart suggested there were not multiple specimens of Posidonia australis, but one single plant.

“We thought ‘what the hell is going on here?’” said Dr Martin Breed, an ecologist at Flinders University. “We were completely stumped.”…

Read the whole article here.

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