Interesting Facts about Seeds
Seeds are ingenious. Not only do they provide protection and a food source for the embryonic plant, they have evolved to be eaten or carried on the wind to a new location. This helps spread the plant’s range. Also, they can stay dormant until optimum conditions for growth are reached.
The oldest viable seed to have grown into a plant was a date palm seed estimated to be 2,000 years old (making it the only surviving contemporary of Jesus). It was discovered in 1963 when Herod the Great’s fortress of Masada near the Dead Sea was excavated. It was planted in 2005 and now Methuselah, as the plant is called, stands over 4 -foot high. Botanists believe the seed had managed to remain viable for so long because the Dead Sea area’s climate is exceptionally dry and stable.
The biggest seed belongs to the coco de mer palm (Lodoicea maldivica). Their fruit usually contain just one seed, which can weigh almost three pounds.
They only grow on two islands in the Seychelles, and were identified in 1768. They were traded across the Indian Ocean as curios, and for use in Indian medicine. The name Lodoicea was a Latinised form of “Louis”, in honour of the reigning monarch at the time, Louis XV of France.
Maldivica refers to the mistaken assumption that cocos were native to the Maldives. In fact, they blew there across a thousand miles of ocean from the Seychelles.
For many years the Linnæan name was Lodoicea callipyge: the second word, “lovely-bummed”, derives from the seed’s resemblance to the said body part.
Plant a seed from your Granny Smith or your Red Delicious and the tree that grows will produce fruit that looks and tastes completely unlike the apple you ate.
Each apple seed produces offspring that are individuals, quite unlike their parent. Humans share this tendency, but to a much lesser extent.
Without grafting – invented by the Chinese 3,000 years ago – your sweet and juicy Cox’s Orange Pippin would have disappeared centuries ago. The first apples originated in the primeval apple forests of the foothills of the Tien Shan Mountains.
Almaty, Kazakhstan’s main city, means “Father of apples” in the Kazakh language. It seems that travelers on the great Silk Routes that cross central Asia developed a taste for these eccentric fruit and spat their pips out wherever they rested.
Apples are now the most popular fruit in the world, grown or traded on every continent.
Domestication of bananas has produced plants that are sweet and tasty, but seedless. Most banana plants have not had sex for 10,000 years, but have been propagated by hand, from a sucker of an existing plant, whose genetic material has not changed in 100 centuries. As a result, bananas are susceptible to disease.
Harvester ants eat more small seeds than all the mammals and birds put together. Like squirrels, they often forget where they’ve put their stashes, so are responsible for planting a third of all herbaceous growth.
One dandelion flower head produces 200 seeds; 99.5 per cent of dandelion seeds travel less than 10m; 0.05 per cent more than 10m; and 0.014 per cent more than one kilometre. Hot weather is better than windy weather for seed dispersal as it generates updrafts, allowing seeds to rise higher and travel further.
Originally “seedy” described something “fruitful” or “abundant”, but by the mid-18th century it had become a term of disparagement, meaning shabby, as in a plant that has “gone to seed”.