‘Methuselah’, the Judean date palm germinated from 2000 year old seed continues to grow and thrive in the Ketura Kibbutz in Israel.
During the early 1960s, archeological excavations of Herod the Great’s palace at Masada in Israel unearthed a sealed jar of date palm seeds. The seeds remained in the jar until 2005 when a team led by Dr Sarah Sallon of the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem germinated one of the seeds after hormone pretreatment. Subsequent radiocarbon-dating in 2008 by the University of Zurich of seed fragments left around the palm’s roots confirmed their authenticity, dating them to between 155BC and 64AD. It is the oldest seed successfully germinated.
Now in 2013, ‘Methuselah’ is planted in ground, continues to thrive and has flowered, revealing that it is a male plant. Judean date palms have been extinct for over 1500 years. They once grew all over the Judean desert but were systematically destroyed by the Romans in an effort to undermine the local economy.
Attempts may be made to crossbreed it with a female plant from a close relative, the Hiyani date from Egypt but fruiting would be unlikely before 2022.