Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Canna seeds last forever

Although most sensational claims for seed longevity are almost certainly bogus, seeds of Canna compacta apparently can live for at least 600 years. Viable Canna seeds were obtained from inside a walnut (Juglans australis) in a tomb in Argentina.

The Canna seeds had apparently been inserted into the immature seeds of a growing walnut fruit before the hard outer shell formed. Once the shell hardened and the nut dried out, the result was a rattle. Native people strung the rattles together to form a necklace.

In this case, the seeds had to be at least as old as the walnut shell, and carbon dating of the shell indicated that it was about 600 years old (Bewley and Black 1994).

The seeds were planted and subsequently germinated. Unfortunately, there is no trace of the plants grown from that seed, which would have been of great interest to the species collectors.


Ed. Lerman, J. C. and E. M. Cigliano. 1971. New carbon-14 evidence for six hundred years old Canna compacta seed. Nature 232: 568--570

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