February 12, 2020
Years ago, archaeological digs at an ancient palace built by King Herod uncovered seeds of the long-lost Judean date palm. In 2005 one of these seeds was planted and successfully germinated, and now researchers report they have had success with six other seeds which are now growing in Israel.
The researchers hope that they will be able to fertilize the female palms using pollen from male palms, which could produce fruit. These dates won’t be exactly the same as the Judean dates grown thousands of years ago though, because those date palms were grown from clones rather than seeds. Regardless, it will be the first time since the 19th century that a Judean palm has produced fruit, remarkable when you consider these seeds are around 2000 years old.
Carbon dating showed the seeds were not all the same age, and genetic analysis showed the seeds were not all from one palm. The researchers were able to determine from this data the younger seeds look more genetically similar to western dates from North Africa, while the older seeds were more similar to eastern date palms from the Middle East. These genetic differences may indicate concerted effort by ancient date farmers to breed palms with the most desirable traits such as the delectable fruit of the Judean date palm.
Source: The Guardian
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