Extinct date palms grown from 2000-year-old seeds found near Jerusalem

Seven date palm trees (Phoenix dactylifera) have been grown from 2000-year-old seeds that were found in the Judean desert near Jerusalem.

The seeds were among hundreds discovered in caves and in an ancient palace built by King Herod the Great in the 1st century BC.

Sarah Sallon and her colleagues at the Louis L Borick Natural Medicine Research Center in Jerusalem previously grew a single date palm tree from one of the seeds. The team has now managed to grow another six.

The ancient seeds are the oldest to ever germinate. They were prepared by soaking them in water, adding hormones that encourage germination and rooting, then planting them in soil in a quarantined area.

The team used radiocarbon dating to reveal the seven seeds were all around 2000 years old. Genetic analysis showed that several of them came from female date palms that were pollinated by male palms from different areas. This tells us that the ancient Judean people who lived in the area at the time cultivated the trees used sophisticated plant breeding techniques.