The Seed Treasure Map

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.

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

David takes a turn at digging.

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

The buried treasure is found!


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:

The New York Times Part 1: The Dig

The New York Times Part 2: The Sprout

The New York Times Part 3: A lesson plan for teachers (hey, hey!)

NPR's Short Wave Podcast

Science Vs Podcast

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:

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!