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Stranger than Fiction

Yep, a Titanic Begonia surfaces after 102 years under water.

"German breeder Ernst Benary has seen a lot of world history in its 171 years. Even Gregor Mendel, the 'father of genetics,' used Benary pea seeds to conduct his famous hybridizing experiments. But Benary’s most unusual connection to history is the well-documented fact that Benary flower seed was on the Titanic when it sank in 1912.

Now, bringing that amazing story to life, Benary will be selling an extremely limited number of begonia liners grown from that very seed, which was recovered from the ship’s wreckage in 2010. The official sale date is April 14, the 102nd anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, but you’ll be able to see the variety, named Titanic, naturally, at Benary’s Spring Trials display in Watsonville, California."

How is it possible that 102-year-old seed is still viable? And how was it found and recovered from the wreckage? Benary says that the sunken seed was recovered by accident by RMS Titanic Inc., a salvage operator, in 2010.

We know, of course, that Benary seed had been aboard the Titanic,” he said, “but we never even dreamed of recovering it. That would be crazy … if you could find it, it would have rotted or been eaten by the fish or something. When they told us what they had, we couldn’t believe it. We still can’t.”

Matthias explained that the seed—400 2,000-seed “trade packages” of Primadonna begonia (which was introduced in 1909 by Benary as the world’s first F1 hybrid ornamental flower variety)—was in a watertight shipping container onboard the ship. During one of several salvage operations, the RMS Titanic Inc. company picked up the container from the sea floor along with numerous other artifacts. Once ashore and opened, they found documentation connecting the packets to Benary. German salvage laws allowed Benary to regain possession of the seed with minimal court intervention.

What do you do with a 102 year old seed?
Put it on display? Try to grow it, why not? They decided th try germinating the seed to see if it was still viable. They thought that if it had stayed dry, the high pressure and low temperature at 12,500 ft. below sea level—5,577 psi and 32-35F—would preserve the seed almost cryogenically.

Gudrun worked with professors Karl Schmid and Albrecht Melchinger at the Institute of Plant Breeding, Seed Science and Population Genetics at the University of Hohenheim to formulate a plan for handling the seed, which proved to have a germination rate of about 30%. Knowing the historical value of even the unviable seeds, the team developed a way to recover them after sowing so they can be kept for posterity in their original packaging.

Plugs will be grown at two undisclosed facilities in Germany and North America in 406-count plug trays, then bumped up to special 24-count, 84-size liners. These will be offered only to professional growers along with a special 8-page booklet tag to give each seed the best chance of making finished plants to offer to plant collectors and the public.

As for quantities and prices being made available, They state, they’ll be able to offer no more than about 3,000 trays of liners worldwide. Wholesale price for a 24-count tray is expected to be $600 plus per tray. which works out to around $25 per liner. with retail pricing for 6 in. or larger pots,
     --- 'suggested at “whatever the market will bear'!