Israeli scientists germinate 2000-year-old palm tree seed

Israeli scientists germinate 2000-year-old palm tree seed
Haaretz - June 14, 2005
By Tamara Traubman

A group of Israeli scientists have managed recently to germinate a 2000 year old palm tree seed discovered at Masada.

It is the oldest seed to have been successfully sprouted by this team of researchers. The researcher heading the team believes this is the world's oldest seed to have been successfully cultivated.

The seed, named Metuselah, has sprouted to a height of about 30 centimeters, has six leaves and is kept under close inspection at Kibutz Ketura in the Negev.

The seed was uncovered in excavations carried out at Masada in the 70s and was then sent for carbon testing in Switzerland which dated them as being 1990 years old, meaning they were around at the site when Romans lay siege to a group of Jewish rebels who chose to take their own lives rather than surrender.

Dr Elaine Salon, the pediatrician and gastroenterologist at the head of the research team, admitted that when she first started out "I estimated there was about a zero percent chance of success".

First she soaked the seeds in hot water, then she spread a special fertilizer made from seaweed over them, and then planted them in a pot. A few weeks later, a small sprout emerged from the ground.

Other ancient seeds have been successfully germinated in the past. During the World War Two German Blitz on London, water that helped put out a fire that broke out at the Natural History Museum sprouted a 500 year old seed and a few years ago Chinese scientists managed to germinate 1,200 year old Lotus seeds, but, according to Dr Salon, this is the most ancient one known to have sprouted yet.