What is the smallest seed in the world?

HINT: It’s not the mustard seed!

The orchid Gomesa crispa.

The world’s smallest seeds, which have no endosperm and contain underdeveloped embryos, are produced by certain epiphytic orchids (family Orchidaceae) in the tropical rainforest. Some seeds are only 1/300th of an inch (85 micrometers) long, which is below the resolving power of the unaided human eye. One seed weighs only 1/35,000,000th of an ounce (0.81 micrograms). Orchid seeds are dispersed into the air like minute dust particles and come to rest in the upper canopy of rainforest trees, where they eventually germinate.

On the other hand, the seed of the begonia plant is about 1/100th of an inch in size, that of the petunia plant about 1/50th of an inch, and that of the mustard plant (family Brassicaceae) about 1/20th of an inch.

By the way, this is what Jesus of Nazareth said about the mustard seed:

With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. (Mark 4.30-32) [emphasis added]

Some have argued, despite the clear language of the quote, that Jesus was only referring to the seeds known to his audience. Well then, was the mustard seed the smallest seed known in Palestine? No, not even in Jesus’ time. There would be numerous plants familiar to his audience with smaller seeds, of which the best example would be the seed of the black orchid. And just for the record, the mustard seed doesn’t grow to be the greatest of all the shrubs on Earth, either.

The point of this observation is not to attack Jesus of Nazareth; the point is to attack those who would put words in his mouth. Jesus was not a scientist. Keeping in mind the fact that the Bible has been copied and translated so many times that it is likely we will never know for sure what he actually said, I think we can agree that Jesus spoke allegorically and not literally when he said that the mustard plant has the smallest seed on Earth, and that it is the largest shrub on Earth. Nor did Jesus ever claim that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago with species unchanging and in their modern forms – he did not declare evolution to be false.

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3 responses to “What is the smallest seed in the world?

  1. Christianized comments aside, thank you for the information. I find it very fascinating. Ah, I dont believe in christianity, all you do is fight like children amongst yourselves.

  2. Great point. I like how you also account for the fact Jesus, being God, would never speak in hyperbole. Was the point of the parable to try and teach a botanical fact or was it to teach something about the kingdom of God?

  3. “The seed of both black and white mustard is similar in size, about 1.0 to 3.0 mm (1/8 inch)(11) so it is not the smallest seed but it is the smallest seed of those which “you plant in the ground” clearly indicating that the Lord was not comparing the mustard seed to all plants but only to those which were commonly grown.”

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