Named “Methuselah” for its extreme inveterate growth, the 2,000 year old Judean date palm has produced viable offspring! Agricultural expert Elaine Solowey from the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura in Israel shared the good news with National Geographic; “He is over three meters [ten feet] tall, he’s got a few offshoots, he has flowers, and his pollen is good,” she says. “We pollinated a female with his pollen, a wild [modern] female, and yeah, he can make dates.”
Solowey germinated Methuselah’s veteran seeds when he sprouted back in 2005. The tree had been liberated from the ruins of Masada, an ancient fort which formerly stood on a rocky plateau in southern Israel. No one imagined that the tree would live, at the time, but he certainly has. And to everyone’s delighted surprise he is able to reproduce, which shows that he is not only alive, he is thriving!
For a long time Methuselah was the sole representative of his kind, a variety that was thought to be eradicated by 500 A.C.E.. However, Solowey never gave up and continued to grow ancient palm species from seeds found throughout the region. She continues, telling National Geographic that she is “trying to figure out how to plant an ancient date grove.” This would aid in research of so many topics; agriculture, botany, archaeology etc.
A 2,000 year old seed isn’t the oldest to be germinated; in 2012 a Russian research team discovered a caches of seeds thought to be 32,000 years old covered in ice. These seeds were successfully germinated and turned out to be a plant species similar to the modern arctic narrow-leaved campion, Silene stenophylla. The germination and success of any extremely aged seeds is impressive, but Methuselah did the arctic plant one better by reproducing!