Oldest viable seed

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The Judean Date Palm at Ketura, Israel, nicknamed Methuselah.

There are several candidates for the oldest viable seed:


  • The oldest carbon-14-dated seed that has grown into a viable plant was Silene stenophylla (narrow-leafed campion), an Arctic flower native to Siberia. Radiocarbon dating has confirmed an age of 31,800 ±300 years for the seeds. In 2007, more than 600,000 frozen mature and immature seeds were found buried in 70 squirrel hibernation burrows 38 metres (125 ft) below the permafrost near the banks of the Kolyma River. Believed to have been buried by Arctic ground squirrels, which had damaged the mature seeds to prevent germination in the burrow; however, three of the immature seeds contained viable embryos. Scientists extracted the embryos and successfully germinated plants in vitro which grew, flowered and created viable seeds of their own. The shape of the flowers differed from that of modern S. stenophylla with the petals being longer and more widely spaced than modern versions of the plant. Seeds produced by the regenerated plants germinated at a 100% success rate, compared with 90% for modern plants. Calculations of the γ radiation dose accumulated by the seeds since burial gave a reading of 0.07 kGy, the highest maximal dose recorded for seeds that have remained viable.[1][2][3]
  • The oldest mature seed that has grown into a viable plant was a Judean date palm seed about 2,000 years old, recovered from excavations at Herod the Great's palace on Masada in Israel. It had been preserved in a cool, dry place, not by freezing. It was germinated in 2005.[4][5][6][7] (For more details refer to Judean date palm: Germination of 2000-year-old seed).
  • The third oldest viable seed recorded is the carbon-14-dated 1,300-year-old sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), recovered from a dry lake bed in northeastern China in 1995.[8][9]


  • In December, 2009, a Turkish newspaper reported a claim that a 4,000-year-old lentil had been successfully germinated.[10]
  • In 1954 an Arctic lupine seed (Lupinus arcticus), in glacial sediments believed to be 10,000 years old or older, was found in the Yukon Territory. The seed was germinated in 1966. Later, new dating techniques revealed that the seeds were likely modern seeds (less than 10 years old) contaminating ancient rodent burrows.[11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yashina, S.; Gubin, S.; Maksimovich, S.; Yashina, A.; Gakhova, E.; Gilichinsky, D. (March 2012). "Regeneration of whole fertile plants from 30,000-y-old fruit tissue buried in Siberian permafrost". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 109 (10): 4008–4013. Bibcode:2012PNAS..109.4008Y. doi:10.1073/pnas.1118386109. PMC 3309767. PMID 22355102.
  2. ^ Kaufman, Rachel 32,000-Year-Old Plant Brought Back to Life—Oldest Yet National Geographic Society News February 21, 2012
  3. ^ Plant grown from 30,000 year-old seeds ABC Science February 22, 2012
  4. ^ Sallon; Solowey, E.; Cohen, Y.; Korchinsky, R.; Egli, M.; Woodhatch, I.; Simchoni, O.; Kislev, M.; et al. (2008-06-13). "Germination, Genetics, and Growth of an Ancient Date Seed". Science. 320 (5882): 1464. Bibcode:2008Sci...320.1464S. doi:10.1126/science.1153600. PMID 18556553. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
  5. ^ John Roach (2005-11-22). "2,000-Year-Old Seed Sprouts, Sapling Is Thriving". National Geographic. Retrieved 2007-02-14. A sapling germinated earlier this year from a 2,000-year-old date palm seed is thriving, according to Israeli researchers who are cultivating the historic plant. "It's 80 centimeters [3 feet] high with nine leaves, and it looks great," said Sarah Sallon, director of the Hadassah Medical Organization's Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center (NMRC) in Jerusalem.
  6. ^ Clara Moskowitz (2008-06-12). "Extinct Tree From Christ's Time Rises From the Dead". LiveScience. Retrieved 2010-02-03. Carbon dating of the seeds found at Masada revealed that they date from roughly the time of the ancient fortress' siege, in A.D. 73. The seeds were found in storage rooms, and appear to have been stockpiled for the Jews hiding out against the invading Romans. ... The seeds were excavated about 40 years ago, along with skeletons of those who died during the siege. Since then, the seeds had been languishing in a drawer until Sallon and her team decided to attempt to grow them anew. ... Though a few trees have been planted from seeds that are rumored to be older than the Masada ones, the Methuselah tree holds the record for the oldest directly dated seed to be germinated. Scientists determined its age from control seeds taken from the same batch, and from shell fragments from the sprouted seed itself.
  7. ^ Steven Erlanger (2005-06-12). "After 2,000 Years, a Seed From Ancient Judea Sprouts". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-02-03. Israeli doctors and scientists have succeeded in germinating a date seed nearly 2,000 years old. The seed, nicknamed Methuselah, was taken from an excavation at Masada, the cliff fortress where, in A.D. 73, 960 Jewish zealots died by their own hand, rather than surrender to a Roman assault. The point is to find out what was so exceptional about the original date palm of Judea, much praised in the Bible and the Koran for its shade, food, beauty and medicinal qualities, but long ago destroyed by the crusaders. [Correction: June 15, 2005, Wednesday: An article on Sunday about the successful germination of a 2,000-year-old date seed by Israeli doctors and scientists referred incorrectly to the Koran's mentions of the date palm. They were to the tree in general, not to the date palm of Judea. The article also misstated the timing of the Crusades, when the date palms of Judea were destroyed. The Crusades took place during the Middle Ages, not before.]
  8. ^ Shen-Miller; Mudgett, M. B.; William Schopf, J.; Clarke, S.; Berger, R.; et al. (1995). "Exceptional seed longevity and robust growth: Ancient sacred lotus from China". American Journal of Botany. 82 (11): 1367–1380. doi:10.2307/2445863. JSTOR 2445863.
  9. ^ Shen-Miller; et al. (2002). "Long-living lotus: germination and soil gamma-irradiation of centuries-old fruits, and cultivation, growth, and phenotypic abnormalities of offspring". American Journal of Botany. Retrieved 2010-02-03. Sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) has been cultivated as a crop in Asia for thousands of years. An ~1300-yr-old lotus fruit, recovered from an originally cultivated but now dry lakebed in northeastern China, is the oldest germinated and directly 14C-dated fruit known. In 1996, we traveled to the dry lake at Xipaozi Village, China, the source of the old viable fruits.
  10. ^ "Ancient seed sprouts plant from the past". Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. 2009-12-16. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
  11. ^ Zazula Grant D (2009). "Radiocarbon dates reveal thatLupinus arcticusplants were grown from modern not Pleistocene seeds". New Phytologist. 182 (4): 788–792. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.2009.02818.x. PMID 19383097.
  12. ^ Matt Walker (2009-07-09). "'10,000-year-old' seeds debunked". BBC. Retrieved 2010-02-03.