Silene stenophylla is a species of plant in the family Caryophyllaceae. It grows in eastern Siberia in the Arctic tundra.
Frozen samples of the plant were found in the Arctic tundra and were estimated to be 32,000 years old. The seeds of the plant were discovered on the banks of the Kolyma River in Siberia. Researchers took the seeds and grew them into adult plants.
The research was undertaken by Russian scientists and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012.
The 32,000-year-old seeds of the plant dated back to the Pleistocene epoch. The longevity of the seed had to do with its condition of dormancy. The seeds were dormant in the Siberian permafrost until scientists were able to revive them.
While scientists were able to grow back the seeds, it was not an easy process. First, they tried to use mature seeds to regenerate the plant. This failed to work so they then tried placental tissue from the immature seeds.
Once the seeds grew, the plants were characteristically different from the modern version of Silene stenophylla. The 32,000 year old plants had thinner flowers and mainly seemed to produce only female flowers. In addition, the petals were spaced further apart than in modern plants.
Scientists believe that the physical differences in the ancient plants may be due to different environmental factors faced by the species through the passage of time.
This research is important as it proves that seeds can be preserved for very long periods of time.