Viability of Plant Structures

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    Abstract

    THE question of the length of the period of viability in seeds and other plant organisms is constantly cropping up, and, although a great deal has been written about it, there is still much to be discovered with regard to the actual length of time seeds and spores can remain viable. Reference was made to this problem in NATURE of May 2, 1931, p. 675, and an article on the subject was published in the Kew Bulletin of 1933, p. 257. In that article, all the cases of longevity that have been definitely authenticated were brought together. Possibly the oldest case is that of Nelumbo (the Japanese lotus) recorded by Ohga in the Botanical Magazine of Tokyo, 1923. Seeds of Nelumbo nucifera were found in a peat bed buried under 2 ft. of loess in Southern Manchuria. The seeds all germinated and it is estimated that they were at least 120 years old and may have been as much as 400 years. It is well known, of course, that poppy seeds and charlock can retain their viability for very long periods, but for how long one cannot say definitely. According to an announcement in The Times of August 19, M. P. N. Kaptereff has succeeded in reviving plant organisms which have lain in the earth for thousands of years. It appears from this account that it is only spores which have shown signs of life, and it seems quite possible that spores of some of the lowly algas could have survived in a frozen condition for a very long time. From the account it appears that blue-green algse may be some of the plants which have developed - possibly some of the unicellular green algse also. As to the grass-like plants which are mentioned, they might well have retained their general appearance in a frozen condition for a very long time, as the ice would preserve the form perfectly well. One would not expect them to have any life in them and this does not appear to have been the case.

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