Rare 200-year-old seeds sent to West Sussex

Scientists are battling to grow two-hundred year-old seeds from the other side of the world which have been discovered in the National Archives. Botanists at Kew Gardens, who were asked to help, have sent the 19th century seeds to its Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place in West Sussex.

More than 30 different types of seeds were unearthed in the find. They are thought to include the 'King Protea', the national flower of South Africa, 'Brown-beard Sugarbrush' and 'Glossy- eyed Parachute Daisy'. But Kew botanists say they will not know for sure until they can make identification from any plants which germinate, and that is by no means guaranteed given their age.

"This is a very exciting find for The National Archives and is a great opportunity for Kew to work closely with them on the project", says Trevor Butler from the Millennium Seed Bank. "Although it is normally very hard to germinate seeds of this age, the precise storage conditions of The National Archives means that there is a slim chance that our experts can germinate the seeds."

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Researchers found the seeds in a red leather notebook while they were exploring the High Court of Admiralty prize paper. The seeds were wrapped in paper envelopes with scientific names inscribed in Latin. The notebook was labelled Jan Teerlink from Flushing (Vlissingen), Holland, who is believed to have collected the seeds from the Cape of Good Hope before being captured by the British in 1803.

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