2,000-year-old seed has roots in King Herod’s palace

Scripps Howard News Service

The seed from which it sprouted 14 months ago was found in archeological excavations of King Herod’s palace on Mount Masada. Lying dormant for 2,000 years, it is the oldest seed to ever produce a viable tree. And this is no ordinary date palm, but the extinct Judean form considered uniquely medicinal.

In ancient times, the value of the male trees cannot be overestimated. Loss of the male flowers would prevent pollination and cut off all fruit production. For cultures dependent on that harvest, this loss meant famine.

When conquering armies invaded date palm-dependent lands, they often cut down the male palm trees to interrupt the food supply. It was similar to the Romans sowing salt in the fields of Carthage. It took many years, if not decades, for the male palms to regrow and produce enough pollen to fertilize the existing female palms. In the interim, locals would be preoccupied with finding enough food rather than fighting their conquerors.

Click on image to see immature date clusters protected from birds and sunburn with paper(Tanx to Natalia Collier for this find.)

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