Oldest Viable Seeds

Oldest Viable Seeds

If you’ve ever stopped to think about it, seeds are the lifeforce behind most of the greenery on Earth. They are the sources that grow all our food, and they evolve and change over time. Like all living things, they have a shelf life, and some seeds remain more viable than others. 

Seed viability refers to an embryo’s ability to germinate, and this ability is often affected by various conditions and factors. In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the oldest viable seeds on Earth, so let’s dive right in. 

2. Lotus or Nelumbo nucifera

Age of the seed: Approximately 1,300 years
Location: China 
Type of plant grown: Lotus

Lotus or Nelumbo nuciferaPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Back in 1995, a group of scientists in China recovered lotus seeds from a dried lake bed. The scientists were from UCLA. At the time, their estimation was that the plants were around 200 to 500 years old, though research has since shown that the seeds were over 1,000 years. 

The reaserchers managed to excavate four seeds, and to their surprise, all four seeds germinated, indicating that despite their age, they were viable seeds. However, when the seeds were tested, they were found to have had abnormalities due to how radioactive and toxic soil has become over time. 

Did you know?

These lotus seeds are carbon-dated.

1. Judean Date Palm

Age of the seed: Over 2,000 years old
Location: Israel
Type of plant grown: Date palm

Judean Date Palm Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Judean date palm plant was grown from the oldest seed in the world! The seed was estimated to have been preserved for around 2000 years. Back in 2005, a group of scientists in Israel decided that they wanted to try and germinate some seeds. The scientist who came up with the idea was Dr. Sarah Sallon. She convinced some colleagues from the Hebrew University of Jerusalmen that worked in the archaeological department to share some preserved seeds. Once she secured the seeds, she asked a different colleague, named Dr. Elaine Solowey to help germinate the seeds.

Solowey was successful in her attempts. She used a baby bottle warmer to hydrate the seeds, and treated them with growth hormones and fertilizer. After some time, the seeds were planted in the Arabah region of the Negev desert in Ketura. 

Did you know? 

The first Judean date palm plant that grew from these old seeds was named Methuselah after a biblical character who was the oldest known man to have ever lived.


Even though science has advanced significantly over the past few decades, it’s safe to say that locating and even germinating old seeds is a difficult task! However, the fact that the scientists and researchers mentioned in this article were able to locate and successfully germinate the plants that they did from some of the oldest viable seeds in the world is an incredible miracle. In this article, we took you through a short list of the two oldest viable seeds in the world, and we hope you learned something new! 

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