2,000-year-old seed yields date palm ancestor in Israel

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Washington, June 13 : Israeli experts have grown a 4-foot-tall plant from a 2,000-year-old seed in a protected laboratory in Jerusalem, and thus made a record of sprouting the world's oldest seed.

Project leader Sarah Sallon, an expert at the Hadassah Medical Organization, has revealed that the plant they have grown is 'Methuselah', an ancestor of the modern date palm.

She has also revealed that the seed from which the young plant was coaxed out in 2005 was recovered in 1963 from Masada, a fortress in present-day Israel where Jewish zealots killed themselves to avoid capture by the Romans in A.D. 70.

She insists that the food stores that the Jews left behind show that they did not starve to death, and thus the exact age of the seed is not a big surprise.

"(But) I was surprised that we were able to grow it," National Geographic News quoted her as saying.

Sarah points out that Methuselah has beaten out the previous oldest-seed record holder, a lotus tree grown from a 1,300-year-old seed in 1995 by botanists at the University of California, Los Angeles.

She and her colleagues had tried to germinate three palm seeds from all botanical discoveries from Masada, but only one yielded a tree.

Experts believe that the Israeli seedling may advance medicines, and reveal genetic relationships between ancient and modern date palms.

Sarah revealed that her team was hoping to germinate more date seeds.

She, however, said that there were no plans of celebrations if and when a first date appears.

"We will celebrate when there is peace. We will celebrate when all people in this region can plant these trees together, and share any medicinal benefits it brings," she said.

A study on Methuselah has been published in the journal Science.

ANI

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