Green Shoots from 200 Year Old Seeds Surprise Scientists

Vintage seed pack This story out of England gives me hope for my five year old tomato seeds;

...Roelof van Gelder, a guest researcher from the Royal Dutch Library, found 32 different species of seeds in 40 small packets stored in a red leather-bound notebook within files held at The National Archives.

The notebook was inscribed with the name Jan Teerlink, a Dutch merchant who is believed to have collected the seeds during a trip to the Cape of Good Hope in 1803...

A few seeds from each of the 32 species were sent to the Millennium Seed Bank. Now three of the 32 species have germinated and the ancient specimens are growing into healthy, vigorous young plants in the glasshouses at Wakehurst Place.

The folks at the Millennium Seed Bank are stoked;

"According to models of seed survival, even the toughest cereal seeds should have died after so long in such condition", says Matt."If seed can survive that long in poor conditions, then that's good news for those in the Millennium Seed Bank stored under ideal conditions."

I collect seed packs like I used to collect baseball cards, so I have a bunch of old seed packs laying around. If you're like me, you can use this handy guide from WSU on propagating plants to help determine how long to keep the seed packs around.

Seed longevity chart

To test the viability of an old pack of seeds you can determine the germination rate by placing 10 r 20 seeds in layers of damp paper towels, put them in a plastic bag and leave them somewhere where the temp is above 70 degrees. Check after awhile to see how many of the seeds germinated and do a little basic math to get your germination rate for that seed packet.