Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The 32,000-year-old flower

A team of Russian scientists claims to have generated living plants from the tissue of a plant which died 32,000 years ago. This is amazing stuff and, if confirmed, would be the oldest plant from which living offspring have been created.

In the past, there have been stories of seeds taken from the tombs of pharoahs, thousands of years old, that have germinated and produced plants. On closer examination and carbon dating, those seeds were proved to be modern contaminants in the tombs. Currently, the oldest confirmed case is a date palm that was grown from a 2,000-year-old seed from the Jewish fortress of Masada. Carbon dating has confirmed the age of the seed in that instance.

So far, studies of the Russians' claims for their plant, an Arctic flower called the narrow-leafed campion, have supported their claims. The seeds for the plant were taken from an ancient squirrel's nest that had been sealed by sediment and frozen for thousands of years. The scientists first tried germinating the seeds but were unsuccessful. Then they took tissue from the placenta, the organ of the plant that produces the seeds, and they were able to clone living plants from that tissue.

And here it is, blooming!

I'm not sure what practical application this research has or what it might mean for the future of botany, but I just think it is extremely cool. A 32,000-year-old flower. Wow!

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