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One of the World's Oldest Organisms: Hoverter & Sholl Box Huckleberry

It is likely not every day that you get to see one of the oldest organisms on the planet. In a forest that seems to otherwise be no different than the many other beautifully wooded areas of central Pennsylvania, one of the world's oldest living organisms owns the forest floor. The Hoverter and Sholl Box Huckleberry is one of the neatest things that I have stumbled upon in the state's forests. This plot of land is over 9 acres and the forest floor. This obscure colony and species is named Gaylussacia brachycera, and very few of these colonies remain. 
This particular colony has been estimated to be anywhere from 1000 to 1400 years old. Another nearby colony in Losh Run is estimated to be as old as 10,000 years old, and once spread over a mile, but was largely knocked out when Route 322 was expanded in the 1960s. This species is believed to be a relict of the last ice age. Colony age is estimated by the average rate of root growth in a year of only a few inches, it is easy see how long it would take a colony to grow to be a quarter mile in size. 
The trail at the Hoverter and Sholl Box Huckleberry Natural Area loops around this box huckleberry colony, with mild elevation change over a quarter mile. It is the smallest area that the state has classified as a natural area, but it protects an absolute treasure.
The growth rate of the colony places age estimates at around 1000 years old.
The forest floor is dominated by the box huckleberry, which provides an awesome color contrast with the forest floor. 

It is important to stick to the specified trail, for this species is threatened, with only a small number of them remaining. This is also one of the oldest organisms on the entire planet. In the spring and summer the box huckleberry flowers, and the colony bears fruit in late summer. 
This forest area is well worth going out of your way to visit. While the box huckleberry is only a few inches off of the ground, its seemingly endless spread across the forest floor is awesome to see.

GPS Coordinates:
40.403941, -77.174757

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