Are seeds dead or alive
Great question. Normally we know things are alive because they’re doing something like growing or moving, or because they need energy from food or sunlight. Seeds can go for 100 years or more without growing or taking in any energy. (I read an article about some seeds they found in China that were about 500 years old, and some were still able to sprout.) Seeds are still alive, they are just in something like a deep hibernation. The processes are basically “stalled” while the seed is dry. I don’t think they stop completely, but are so rare or slow that it seems that way. This is sometimes called “suspended animation” because it’s like someone hit the “pause” button on the life of the seed. When the seed gets water, the chemicals inside the seed can interact and all of its processes can start happening very fast.
Some animals produce cysts, which are like seeds because they can last for a long time in suspended animation until they are eaten by another animal, or something else happens to re-activate them. There is an animal called the tardigrade that can also use suspended animation to survive harsh conditions after it has started its active life.
Can you think of any drawbacks to using suspended animation?
I really like your question because it shows that people like to make tidy categories for things, but the world is so interesting that it often does not fit neatly into those categories. This happens a lot in biology.
If you are interested in the life of plants, you may want to study botany or plant ecology.
Thanks for asking,
A seed is living. Although seeds are dormant (resting) their cells are still alive and performing typical cellular functions.
Seeds are living! They are just typically in a dormant state, which means they require very little of the resources necessary to stay alive, until they are in the appropriate conditions to grow.
Seeds are living. Inside of a seed is an embryo – a baby plant.
Seeds are fascinating structures. They are definitely living, but are living at a very very slow pace. Imagine that you can slow down your metabolism to an incredibly low rate (you could live for a lot longer. ). Seeds are in a dormant state with a very low metabolism and protected by a seed coat from the outside world. Most seeds don’t last more than 5 years before the die, rot or are eaten. Some seeds, however, can live for many many years depending on how much energy is stored in the seed. The longest lived seed on record was a date palm seed uncovered in Herod’s Palace in Israel (over 2,000 years old). Researchers planted it in 2005 and it sprouted a palm tree! This tree is named Methuselah because of it’s old age.
Are seeds dead or alive Great question. Normally we know things are alive because they’re doing something like growing or moving, or because they need energy from food or sunlight. Seeds can go
The Dead or Alive Test: Will my old seeds still germinate?
February 28, 2018 1 Comment
This year when I was sifting through my seed box, I realized just how old some of my seeds were! The average home gardener doesn’t need all 30 of those zucchini seeds they provide in a standard seed packet (unless you’ve really taken off with this zoodles craze, I suppose).
I actually had seed in my box from my first year of gardening – 2011! It wasn’t that we don’t like Joe’s Long Cayenne peppers, just that we only need to grow one or two of those plants each year. One or two plants = one or two seeds, i.e. one packet of seeds is *a lot* of cayenne peppers! This is why seed swaps have become quite popular. Or you could make a ton of hot sauce? Instead, I just planted a few seeds every year, and they’ve been germinating just fine all this time, without special treatment.
Last year I did give space in my seed starting flats to an old seed that ended up not germinating. Frankly, it’s valuable real-estate under those lights, so I don’t want to take up space with dead seed again. This year, we decided to do a fun little germination test to determine if our oldest seed was still viable. Homeschool for the win, this little activity fell in the category of science experiment, and our evaluation served as an opportunity to learn about percentages!
Seed viability test
- damp paper towels
- labels (we used masking tape and permanent marker)
- old seeds
- a ziplock baggie
Create a crease in the damp paper towel by folding it in half like the cover of a book. Open it back up and tuck ten seeds inside, evenly spaced out. Close it back up and make sure your seed booklet is labeled. If you’re doing more than one seed type, simply stack them together. When you’re done tucking seeds, place the damp stack inside the ziploc bag, press the air out and seal it closed. Place the baggy in a warm place.
We gave these about ten days to germinate before opening them back up.
When evaluating – compost seeds with extremely low germination. For those that germinated some, but not stellar, I like to write the percent of germination on the seed packet. When I go to sow these older seed, I’ll use that percentage to determine how thickly to sow the seed. For example, I might place three or four seeds in a seed-starting cell instead of one or two.
>>Cheers to milking those seed packets for all that we can, eh? Let me know if you try this and how it goes!
The Dead or Alive Test: Will my old seeds still germinate? February 28, 2018 1 Comment This year when I was sifting through my seed box, I realized just how old some of my seeds were! The