Seeds From a 142-Year-Old Science Experiment Have Sprouted - The New York Times
May 11, 2021 1 min, 38 secs
After lying dormant in buried bottles for 142 years, 11 seeds germinated on the Michigan State University campus after scientists planted them.

He then stashed them in bottles and buried them in a secret spot on the Michigan State campus, with the goal of learning whether they’d still grow after years, decades or even centuries of dormancy.

That one was present in the first eight bottles and fared less well, with few of its seeds growing after only 20 years of dormancy.

blattaria seeds originally placed in each bottle, 31 germinated after 50 years, followed by 34 after 60 years, and so on.

It will take time for the team to definitively determine exactly what has sprouted, and to conclude that the other seeds aren’t viable.

“Rough them up on the outside, because that causes germination for some,” said Marjorie Weber, a team member and an assistant professor of plant biology at the university.

“Some of them are just chugging along like no time has passed,” she said.

If species like this can survive underground for decades or even centuries, they may pop up on land that people are attempting to turn into native plant habitat — “presenting surprises and maybe even challenges to restoration projects long into the future,” said Lars Brudvig, another team member and an associate professor of plant ecology at the university.

While this experiment isn’t set to end until the year 2100, “the time is now” to start preparing a follow-up, said Frank Telewski, a professor of plant biology at the university and the longest-standing member of the Beal experiment team.

The core of the experiment will remain the same — seeds, bottles, time — but there are a few things this group aims to do differently, to protect their successors from the confusion and temptation they currently face.

The team might even include some seeds from this year’s sprouts — which, after their time in the growth chamber, may be given a spot in the university’s W.J.


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