The World’s Largest Plant Was Just Discovered in Australia

published Jun 4, 2022
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No offense to those of you who are obsessed with how large your monstera plant has gotten since you picked it up all those years ago — it simply has nothing on the world’s largest plant that was just discovered in shallow waters off the coast of Western Australia.

Spanning just under 50,000 acres, the seagrass — called ribbon weed — covers the most ground of any living plant on Earth, including the Aspen trees in Utah, which were originally thought to be the largest plants in the world, as they cover over 106 acres.

The particular piece of ribbon weed found in Australia’s Shark Bay has spread over 112 miles. It was accidentally discovered by scientists who were trying to target species in the area for restoration. After taking several samples of ribbon weed that were over 100 miles apart, the scientists realized they were part of the same plant.

Researchers realized that the plant was able to grow so quickly because it clones itself in order to reproduce — and it’s been doing so for over 4,500 years after a single seed founds it’s way into Shark Bay.

“The plant has been able to continue growing through vegetative growth — extending its rhizomes (rootstalks) outwards — the way a buffalo grass would in your back garden, extending runners outwards,” Elizabeth Sinclair, a senior research fellow at the School of Biological Sciences and Oceans Institute at The University of Western Australia, told CNN. “The only difference is that the seagrass rhizomes are under a sandy seafloor so you don’t see them, just the shoots within the water column.”

Sinclair and her fellow researchers believe that, through the process of cloning, the ribbon weed has been able to adapt and evolve to specific conditions that would disturb other seagrasses such as saltier water, temperature fluctuations, and high light levels.

Yes, your monstera is looking large and lush these days. But it has a ways to go if it wants to reach Shark Bay ribbon weed status.