World’s largest plant is a vast seagrass meadow in Australia

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. meadow / ˈmɛd oʊ / (n.) – land that is covered with grass

    The cows roam around the meadow.

  2. sample / ˈsæm pəl / (v.) – to test or analyze a small group of people or things taken from a larger group

    A huge percentage of the employees sampled said they usually work more than 10 hours every day.

  3. asexually / eɪˈsɛk ʃu ə li / (adv.) – in a way that reproduces without male and female cells having to combine

    This plant can reproduce itself asexually.

  4. susceptibility / səˌsɛp təˈbɪl ɪ ti / (n.) – the state of being easily influenced or harmed by something

    Lack of sleep increases one’s susceptibility to diseases.

  5. cyclone / ˈsaɪ kloʊn / (n.) – a large, powerful, and destructive storm

    Classes have been suspended due to the incoming cyclone.


Read the text below.

Scientists have discovered the world’s largest plant off the Australia coast — a seagrass meadow that has grown by repeatedly cloning itself.

Genetic analysis has revealed that the underwater fields of waving green seagrass are a single organism covering 70 square miles (180 square kilometers) through making copies of itself over 4,500 years.

The research was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Scientists confirmed that the meadow was a single organism by sampling and comparing the DNA of seagrass shoots across the bed, wrote Jane Edgeloe, a study co-author and marine biologist at the University of Western Australia.

A variety of plants and some animals can reproduce asexually. There are disadvantages to being clones of a single organism — such as increased susceptibility to diseases — but “the process can create ‘hopeful monsters’” by enabling rapid growth, the researchers wrote.

The scientists call the meadow of Poseidon’s ribbon weed “the most widespread known clone on Earth,” covering an area larger than Washington.

Though the seagrass meadow is immense, it’s vulnerable. A decade ago, the seagrass covered an additional seven square miles, but cyclones and rising ocean temperatures linked to climate change have recently killed almost a tenth of the ancient seagrass bed.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Scientists discovered that the world’s largest plant is a seagrass meadow covering an area larger than Washington. What is the importance of a discovery like this? Discuss.
  • Do you think scientists should continue studying and developing methods of growing plants or let them grow through their natural processes? Why? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Do you support the practice of cloning? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • There are disadvantages to being clones of a single organism — such as increased susceptibility to diseases. If presented the chance, would you like to be subjected to cloning? Why or why not? Discuss.