Researchers have discovered the largest known plant on Earth, a meadow of seagrass roughly three times the size of Manhattan. Discovered in the shallow sun-drenched waters of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, in Western Australia, this plant covers a total of 200 km2 (77 mi2).
It is a plant because the entire expanse has grown from just one seeding
Scientists discovered this plant while studying the genetic diversity of seagrass meadows in the Shark Bay area. They took samples of shoots from all across the region and examined them to create profiles of the plants.
But they were surprised to discover that it was all one plant
“The answer blew us away – there was just one!” said Jane Edgeloe, lead author of the study. “That’s it, just one plant has expanded over 180 km (112 miles) in Shark Bay, making it the largest known plant on Earth. The existing 200 km2 of ribbon weed meadows appear to have expanded from a single, colonizing seedling.”
The species is called Poseidon’s ribbon weed. According to the researchers, a single seed, spawned from two different seagrass species has spread to cover such a big area over the past 4,500 years.
“Polyploid plants often reside in places with extreme environmental conditions, are often sterile, but can continue to grow if left undisturbed, and this giant seagrass has done just that,” said Dr. Elizabeth Sinclair, senior author of the study.