“Every seed is a longing” Khalil Gibran
When excavating the Temple of Herod the Great in 1965, a dusty jar of date seeds was discovered. At the time of Herod, the kingdom of Judea was renowned for it’s forest of date trees, which had a distinctive sweet taste. Such was their importance to the economy, the palm tree was depicted on the coins of that time. However by 500AD, all the date trees had been cut down and the Judean palm tree was no more. This cache of ancient seeds was stored for a further 40 years, until 2005, when an inquisitive botanical researcher decided to try to grow one. Three seeds were treated with a special solution of fertiliser and hormones. To everyone’s amazement, one little seed began to sprout, 2000 years after it fell off the tree, making it the oldest viable seed in the world. This tree, still grows today and is the last of the famous Judean date trees. Palm trees are dioecious (meaning it has separate male and female plants), and this tree is a male. So to continue the line, it is hoped to crossbreed it with it’s nearest living relative, the Hayani date palm from Egypt.
|Phoenix dactylifera seedling studies|
|Study of older seedling showing the juvenile leaves which are non pinnate and entire|
|A larger study on tracing paper which will be used later|
|I soaked the seeds for two days in water, and then carefully placed them smooth side down on wet kitchen paper in a ziplock bag. I left the bag open but covered it lightly with a cloth. Fingers crossed!|
Little date seeds grow into beautiful trees, so I also need to paint a tree.
|Palm tree with fruit, plein air study 2103|
Last year I spent a couple of enjoyable afternoons by the pool painting a palm tree, which was laden with fruit. It was great in that it gave me a good idea of what colours to use, but it was hard to fit it all onto the page and I felt that the bountiful fruit set the composition off balance. I wanted to do a study of the whole tree. I’ve been putting it off because this summer has been really hot, making painting outside quite a challenge. Fortunately there is a beautiful tree just outside my window, so I took the easier air conditioned option.
|It's hot out there!|
I haven’t managed to finish it yet because it’s quite a big study (70cm high), and painting all those leaves takes a lot of concentration! But there's something quite soothingly hypnotic in building up the patterns within the crown of the tree and painting all those negative spaces.
Whilst I have been doing all these preparatory studies, the dates have been ripening slowly on the trees. To my delight, one of the gardeners offered to climb up and pick some of the riper ones which hang just out of my reach. My fridge is now full of sweet crunchy dates, some to eat and of course, plenty to paint.
|Gathering dates for me!|
However the best news of the week has to be this! After two weeks of careful incubation, I have my first sprout! I have so much to paint before I leave.
“The plant reveals what is in the seed.” Ancient Egyptian proverb