Silene is a genus of wildflowers typical of cold regions of Europe, North America, and elsewhere. Silene species are common high Arctic and Alpine mountain environments. They hybridize easily to produce plants with pale pink flowers, thus are often called pinks. Hybrid Silenes are grown as favorite garden plants.
Russian scientists have now announced the propagation of a Silene species kept dormant for more than 30,000 years in Siberian permafrost. Their horticultural feat was just published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). With assistance from laboratory micro-propagation techniques, preserved seeds and leaves were revived and brought into flower. The original material may have been collected by Siberian squirrels and buried in their burrows for winter munching. The plant material was likely frozen quickly, survived the Pleistocene ice ages by cryo-preservation, and remained covered until the Russian researchers discovered the botanical cache. The Science Times provided some additional information on the newly revived Arctic plant.
(credit: Russian Academy of Sciences)
You might wonder about the value of a little plant. In this case, the permafrost represents a time capsule that preserved an ancient life form. When revived, it might provide amazing historical information about the Pleistocene environment and a bit on evolutionary adaptations in the ancient Arctic. That’s not too bad for a tiny, nondescript, pink flower.
Maybe a woolly mammoth will be uncovered and revived next.