[NAFEX] Tree from 2,000-year-old seed is doing well

mangodance bmn at iglou.com
Fri Jun 13 09:12:29 EDT 2008


  Tree from 2,000-year-old seed is doing well

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer Thu Jun 12, 3:42 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Just over three years old and about four-feet tall, 
Methuselah is growing well. "It's lovely," Dr. Sarah Sallon said of the 
date palm, whose parents may have provided food for the besieged Jews at 
Masada some 2,000 years ago.

The little tree was sprouted in 2005 from a seed recovered from Masada, 
where rebelling Jews committed suicide rather than surrender to Roman 
attackers.

Radiocarbon dating of seed fragments clinging to its root, as well as 
other seeds found with it that didn't sprout, indicate they were about 
2,000 years old — the oldest seed known to have been sprouted and grown.

Sallon, director of the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center 
at Hadassah Medical Organization in Israel, updates the saga of 
Methuselah in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

One thing they don't know yet is whether it's a boy or girl. Date palms 
differ by sex, but experts can't tell the difference until the tree is 
six or seven years old, Sallon said.

She hopes there's a chance to use it to restore the extinct Judean date 
palm, once prized not only for its fruit but also for medicinal uses.

The researchers have had a look at the plant's DNA, however, and found 
it shares just over half its genes with modern date cultivars.

"Part of our project is to preserve ancient knowledge of how plants were 
used," Sallon said in a telephone interview. "To domesticate them so we 
have a ready source of raw material."

Her Middle Eastern Medicinal Plant Project is working to conserve and 
reintroduce plants to the region where they once lived.

"Many species are endangered and becoming extinct. Raising the dead is 
very difficult, so it's better to preserve them before they become 
extinct," she said.

The oldest documented seed to be grown previously was a 1,300-year-old 
lotus, Sallon said.
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On the Net:
Science: http://www.sciencemag.org



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