Oldest Plant Yet Brought Back To Life
Flowering Plant grown from 32,000 year old seeds.
October 6, 2013 - 11:00 am
According to National Geographic:
A Russian team discovered a seed cache of Silene stenophylla, a flowering plant native to Siberia, that had been buried by an Ice Age squirrel near the banks of the Kolyma River (map). Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the seeds were 32,000 years old.
The mature and immature seeds, which had been entirely encased in ice, were unearthed from 124 feet (38 meters) below the permafrost, surrounded by layers that included mammoth, bison, and woolly rhinoceros bones.
The mature seeds had been damaged—perhaps by the squirrel itself, to prevent them from germinating in the burrow. But some of the immature seeds retained viable plant material.
The team extracted that tissue from the frozen seeds, placed it in vials, and successfully germinated the plants, according to a new study. The plants—identical to each other but with different flower shapes from modern S. stenophylla—grew, flowered, and, after a year, created seeds of their own.
Okay, so it’s not the stuff of Jurassic Park, unless they can coax the rather pretty white flowers to roam the countryside overturning jeeps and terrorizing tourists, but pretty exciting, nonetheless. And maybe next time they’ll find seeds for some massive ancestor of Venus Fly Trap and recreate Little Shop of Horrors.
What? Oh, it would be terrible of course. But think of all the people you could send one of those to. I bet Washington DC would be full of flower pots and carnivorous plants before you could say “inadvisable horticulture.”