THE ANTHROPOCENE SLAM: A CABINET OF CURIOSITIES NOVEMBER 8-10

WISCONSIN INSTITUTES FOR DISCOVERY DELUCA FORUM MADISON

SILENE STENOPHYLLA SEED

photo of a seeds

Humans and plants are influential co-producers of the biosphere. Attuned to sun, water, soil and fire, alongside human and non-human animals, plants have distinctive capacities. In terms of materiality, they literally 'eat the sun' (photosynthesis), store starch, form cellulose cells and exhibit sporic meiosis (alteration of generations in lifecycles); as Charles Darwin noted, plants are independently mobile; they have sensing and communication skills alongside memory functions; and they demonstrate flexible bodies, growth includes the reconfiguration of cells and their foundations. Thus, while plants are both studied at great length and dominant in our cultural imaginary, how is it possible to represent and store such spatially and temporally distributive agents?

An arctic flower native to Siberia, the narrow leafed campion Silene stenophylla, is known as the provider of the world’s oldest carbon dated seed that has grown into a viable plant. 600,000 seeds from this plant were discovered 38 metres below the permafrost near the banks of the Kolyma River. Aged at 32,000 years, the seeds were discovered in 2007, thought to be previously buried by Arctic ground squirrels. Three immature seeds contained viable embryos that were extracted and grown in vitro (in test tubes), which grew, flowered and created viable seeds of their own.

While many environmental stories speak of loss and extinction, there are a number of incredible discoveries that speak directly to the planet’s endurance, the incredible timescales in which nature operates. Such stories make us rethink the fallacy of measuring life via the dominant human scale.

This display will be supported by images of arctic squirrels and a container with an outgrowth.

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