Feb 22 2012
By Ann Davenport
Plants never cease to amaze me. It’s unbelievable the amount of abuse they will take and the adaptations they will make to survive. Living in an urban environment, you can’t turn around without seeing a some totally inhospitable environment for plants, yet there they are, stuck in some tiny space surrounded by a sea of concrete. They spend their days baking in the hot sun with little or no water, being stepped on, or driven over, or peed on by dogs! Yet, they continue to grow, bloom, and survive.
In a search through some recent news items, I came across this National Geographic story that shows that some plants may have that survival trait ingrained pretty deep into their genetic code! Scientists in Russia uncovered a seed bank of Silene stenophylla, a flowering plant native to Siberia, which had been buried by an ice age squirrel. (I can’t help but think the little guy looked just like Scrat.) The seeds were completed encased in ice and brought up from 124 feet below the permafrost layer. Using radiocarbon dating, the seeds were estimated to be 32,000 year old! Wow!!!! That bypasses the previous record holder for “Oldest Plant” by like 30,000 years. Now as if simply finding these seeds isn’t enough, these scientists took things a step further and extracted tissue from the frozen seeds, placed it vials and grew it. The new plants not only grew, but they also flowered, and a year later produced their own seeds. Pretty amazing stuff from a 32,000 year old seed source!
So the next time you come across that old packet of seeds that you’ve been meaning to plant for a few years now, instead of just tossing it in the garbage, why not go ahead and give it a try. You never know what those little guys are capable of!
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