Sunday, April 22, 2012

Methuselah, the 2000 year old date

The Methuselah date palm, 2012
Kibbutz Keturah, Israel
The date palm has been a source of food, medicine, shelter and shade for thousands of years. While the exact date trees grown in the bibical period are long extinct, in 2005, a 2000-year-old date seed recovered from Masada in the Judean dessert was successfully germinated. Genetic analyses have shown that this tree is distinct from all known date palms, and scientists want to see if the ancient tree has any unique medicinal properties no longer found in today's date palm varieties.

Unfortunately, Methuselah, true to its name, appears to be male, so we won't get any ancient fruit. Date palms are dioecious, meaning that there are separate male trees which make pollen, and female trees which make ovules which lead to fruit and seeds after fertilization with pollen from the male. But through careful genetic breeding, Methuselah can be used to pollinate modern species, and some of these offspring will be female. These hybrids can then be recrossed with Methuselah's pollen, to yield a new generation that's mainly the ancient date.


  1. Sounds a lot like my life. The last time I had a date was about 2000 years ago.

    1. Yes but at least you get to see this date every day!

  2. This is the most highly secured tree in the world. they want to keep this tree sacred:-)

  3. Maybe the name should of been EVE

  4. Why cant they try to germinate another seed and hope its a female?

  5. I dimly recall that genetic manipulation of material from a single surviving male “Soufrierre” tree from St Vincent, West Indies, yielded some female plants which could then regenerate the species.

    Perhaps the custodians of the Methusela Palm could contact the St Vincent Botanic Garden to learn how this was done. . .

    Worth a try? ---Aunt Raven

  6. Efforts are also underway in Israel to reestablish the mysterious balsam so highly prized for the perfume made from it's sap in ancient times. Theres an article available on line. (