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2,000-Year-Old Seed Sprouts


With a little help from science, a 2,000-year-old date palm seed taken from an excavation at Masada is blooming! Although plants grown from ancient seeds -- these are much older than ones found in China by some 800 years -- typically die quickly, this date seed has grown into a foot-tall sapling with leaves

The seeds were planted in late January, after scientists helped awaken them from dormancy by immersing them in hot water, a hormone-rich acid and an enzymatic fertilizer made of seaweed and other nutrients. That combination worked like a charm after about six weeks on the ancient seed, estimated to have been created sometime between 35 B.C.-65 A.D.

An interesting factoid: The phrase land of milk and honey was derived from the date itself.

One of those leaves is being tested for its DNA in the hope it may reveal qualities in dates that have disappeared from modern varieties, including natural medicinal properties, one scientist said. Back in ancient times, dates were considered highly medicinal, as they were used to treat infections and tumors.

Don't expect immediate results from the plant: Although date plants can live to be two centuries old, it takes one 30 years to reach maturity.

Washington Post June 13, 2005

New York Times June 12, 2005 Registration Required

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