Are Seeds Alive?

But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids

By Vermont Public Radio

Are Seeds Alive?

Friday, 4 June

Are seeds alive? What are they made of? Here in Vermont it's planting time, and we've been getting a lot of questions about seeds from kids around the world. In this episode we'll explore the importance of preserving seed diversity with Hannes Dempewolf of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. Crop Trust manages a repository of seeds from around the world at the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway, above the Arctic Circle.

Plus, ethnobotanist and Abenaki scholar Fred Wiseman shares a little bit about a project called Seeds of Renewal, which aims to find seeds traditionally grown by Abenaki people in our region and return them to cultivation.

Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript

More Plant Episodes:

How Do Big Plants Grow From Such Small Seeds?

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault contains an enormous wealth of seeds from around the world. Unlike other seed banks, the vault is designed not to be used unless there are no other options in other seed banks. Seed banks are places where seeds are stored for future use in case of a disaster or crop failure, and are sometimes given out to help establish new populations of heritage or rare plants and crops. Seed banks also promote genetic diversity by keeping many varieties of seeds from many different plant species.

"Are seeds alive?" - Evie, 5, Hawaii

Yes, seeds are very much alive! At least the seeds that we use to grow food are alive. Seeds can die if they're not properly cared for, if they get too hot or cold or wet.  But under the right conditions, they're just dormant.

"It means they're sleeping basically," Dempewolf says.  "Seeds are dormant and they need to be activated to grow. They need light to grow, along with humidity and warmth, that's the conditions that allow seeds to grow."

"Different species of plants have very different kinds of seeds and different types of seeds also need very different conditions to grow. Some grow with very, very little humidity with very little wetness, and some need a lot. Some need to be submerged in you know under water for a while until they can grow. Some need to be frozen first before they can grow. Some seeds are made that they have to first be eaten by an animal and then pooped out again, so they can grow. Some grow with very, very little wetness, and some need to be submerged underwater for a while until they can grow. Some need to be frozen first before they can grow. Seeds are amazingly complex."

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