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The Seed Treasure Map

"The Seed Treasure Map" artwork. Map with trail and a shovel on the X.


NGSS Standards:


How long can a seed live? To find out, scientists follow a secret map on a mission under the cover of night, to find a buried treasure. It’s all part of one of the longest running, most legendary experiments in science history! We follow plant biologist David Lowry and his team on this secret scientist-spy-treasure hunt, which only happens once every 20 years. But things don’t go quite as planned. Find out what happens on this epic science quest, if seeds will sprout after 141 years underground, and what a wise, ancient rabbit has to do with it all.


All images courtesy of Michigan State University.

David with the "Beal Bottle" in his office.

Photo of David Lowry holding the "Beal Bottle". Bottle with brown substance in it.

The scientist-spy-treasure-hunter team assembled with their treasure!

Photo of the seed-hunting team.

David takes a turn at digging.

David digging with a shovel at night. He and his team member are crouched on the ground wearing headlamps.

Carefully digging with a garden trowel, to avoid damaging the bottles.

Hole in the ground with shovel digging.

The buried treasure is found!

Bottle retrieved from the ground.


The Beal Seed Experiment has gotten more and more famous with each new dig. This time, many journalists covered the event! Here’s a few examples:

Hear more about the experiment from the team in this video:


Beal's seed experiment is a lot like a simple seed experiment you can do at home, by testing the different conditions in which seeds germinate. Learn more about how seeds grow into a plant, and how you can set up your own experiment.

SciKids has a great series on this topic.


In the episode, we suggest making your own treasure map!

In the episode, the scientists measure between two landmarks to find where to dig. It’s called triangulating.

Here are photos from the dig:

Tape measures being held on the ground.

More tape measures being held on the ground.

No need for a special yellow pirate paper, but if you want to make your map look extra-cool, here’s how to do it.

Don’t forget to email us your treasure map at!


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