a tree grows in Israel
September 12, 2015 10:29 PM   Subscribe

Extinct tree grows anew from ancient jar of seeds unearthed by archaeologists

The Judean date palm tree grown from 2000 year old seed is a father. "Ten years since the Judean Date Palm was miraculously brought back to life following the chance discovery of seeds in the 2,000-year-old ruins of Masada,"
Buried beneath the rubble, Yadin unearthed a small stockpile of seeds stowed in a clay jar dating back 2,000 years. For the next four decades, the ancient seeds were kept in a drawer at Tel Aviv's Bar-Ilan University. But then, in 2005, botanical researcher Elaine Solowey, director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura in Israel, decided to plant one and see what, if anything, would sprout.
“I assumed the food in the seed would be no good after all that time. How could it be?” said Solowey. She was soon proven wrong. After eight weeks, a small green shoot emerged from one seed, producing a sapling no one had seen in centuries and becoming the oldest known tree seed to germinate. The plant was nicknamed “Methuselah,” after the longest-lived person in the Bible.
posted by the man of twists and turns (25 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is the coolest. Thanks for posting.
posted by delight at 10:58 PM on September 12, 2015


I feel like this is the opening 20 minutes in the movie before the tree starts craving the flesh of men.
posted by The Whelk at 11:00 PM on September 12, 2015 [39 favorites]


very cool - though it appears that this is just a particular cultivar of a type of date, the sort that is still widely grown and eaten. So, "extinct" is more accurate. but wild that something so old could germinate.
posted by wilful at 11:25 PM on September 12, 2015


It has been proposed that the tree be cross-bred with closely related palm types, but it would likely take years for it to begin producing any of its famed fruits.
Maybe I'm missing something, but wouldn't it make sense to plant more of the old seeds and let the resulting trees reproduce normally? She planted one seed, and it grew. Seems likely that others from that jar would, also.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:56 PM on September 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


per another article: multiple seeds were used in the initial trial and one germinated, and they are trying again with another batch.
posted by russm at 12:12 AM on September 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


As I recall, initially only one seed sprouted and she had difficulty getting more. It's not like 2,000 year-old seeds grow on trees, you know. So the idea was, you cross the original tree with relatives to make a hybrid, and then back-cross, and keep doing that until you have a tree that's very close to the original. But apparently now
Solowey has managed to sprout a small handful of other date palms from ancient seeds recovered at archaeological sites around the Dead Sea, and at least two of them are female.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:16 AM on September 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


I saw this tree during a visit to Kibbutz Ketura in 2009. I somehow managed to take 275 pictures, but none of the date palm tree.
posted by andoatnp at 12:18 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


So there is hope for the Truffula tree after all.
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 4:08 AM on September 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


Dates, schmates. Holding out for soma.

Or silphium. That would be cool.
posted by Devonian at 4:45 AM on September 13, 2015 [11 favorites]



So there is hope for the Truffula tree after all.


Unless...
posted by drezdn at 5:54 AM on September 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I feel like this is the opening 20 minutes in the movie before the tree starts craving the flesh of men.

I really need to get in here earlier. Beaten to the punch by The Whelk once again.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:13 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wish the tree well. It's hard to start dating again after 2000 years.
posted by Kabanos at 7:03 AM on September 13, 2015 [60 favorites]


methuselah lived 2000 years
methuselah lived 2000 years
who calls that livin' when no [date palm] will give in
to no [date palm] who's 2000 years
posted by acrasis at 7:13 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, it's not a red heifer, but it's not chopped liver.
posted by kozad at 7:40 AM on September 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Dates, schmates. Holding out for soma.

Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil for me, please!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:09 AM on September 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


> It's not like 2,000 year-old seeds grow on trees, you know.

But change just one letter...
posted by IAmBroom at 8:15 AM on September 13, 2015


Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil for me, please!

Because that worked so well last time.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:13 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


So that bit with the seeds in Mad Max was realistic.
posted by yoHighness at 10:37 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Svalbard seed vault.
posted by salix at 12:26 AM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is this cultivar still doomed anyway due to a lack of genetic diversity?
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:25 AM on September 14, 2015


Plants seem more resistant than animals to lack of genetic diversity. It may be all the polyploidy going on.
posted by tavella at 10:16 AM on September 14, 2015


The Svalbard seed vault.

The Bob Loblaw Law Blog
posted by Sys Rq at 10:24 AM on September 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is this cultivar still doomed anyway due to a lack of genetic diversity?

Most fruit (e.g., apples, stone fruits, etc.) are grown from what are effectively clones of the original tree, produced by taking buds and grafting them to the base of another plant, or getting a shoot to produce roots and then planting it out, or similar techniques. My casual reading indicates that there are literally thousands of closely-related date varieties (just as there are thousands of closely-related apple varieties) to supply genetic variation if that ever turns out to be necessary.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:42 AM on September 15, 2015


Robert Krulwich: Seeds That Defied Romans, Pirates, and Nazis
posted by homunculus at 11:10 PM on September 19, 2015 [2 favorites]




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