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As far as I can tell, there is no mention of Noach bringing plants into the ark. Moreover, it appears Noach had nothing to do with the survival of the plants, given that the dove brought back the olive tree leaf after the flood, before anyone had a chance to plant anything.

So, how did plants survive the Mabul?

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It seems that Noach did bring plants (or seeds) into the Teiva, as he planted a vineyard. But is that your question, or are you asking about how the olive tree branch survived? –  YDK Oct 24 '11 at 4:19
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@YDK He may have planted the vineyard from already existing seeds / plants - no? –  yydl Oct 24 '11 at 4:32
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Breishis Rabbah bottom of 36:4- hebrewbooks.org/… –  YDK Oct 24 '11 at 4:57
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The question would be much stronger if you were to indicate why you think plants couldn't survive the flood. (Does flooding prevent their carbon-dioxide intake, killing them? I honestly don't know. Or are you assuming the position of the midrash that the floodwaters boiled?) –  msh210 Oct 24 '11 at 6:52
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@msh210 immersing a terrestrial plant for 40 days in water will certainly kill it, even if the water is not hot, however some seeds could survive that. –  Ariel Oct 24 '11 at 8:26
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

The Classic Questions to Bereshit 8:11 in the Gutnik Chumash brings several different opinions on this matter (while specifically addressing where the olive branch came from).

  • Rabbi Levi says (Bereshit Rabbah 33:6) that the floodwaters did not fall in the Land of Israel. If so, even if all the plants in the rest of the world were destroyed, that would not mean the extinction of the plants.

  • The Ramban says that since the whole world was filled with water, there weren't strong currents that would uproot trees, and the trees survived the flood.

  • The Abarbanel says that the branches from the destroyed trees were floating in the water. As the flood subsided, the branches took root and started growing again.

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From a scientific point of view all those answers are pretty poor. I'm going to have to assume miracle here. 1: Israel does not contain every variety of plant, and in any case how would the seed reach the other lands? (Presumably the same way the animals did - it was a miracle.) 2: That answers for trees, but not other plants, but in any case water immersion would kill a tree. 3: Very few plants have branches that can grow that way (from cuttings). –  Ariel Oct 24 '11 at 8:31
    
1: If Israel was not flooded, it would have been much easier for Noah and all the animals to go there instead of an arc. Not to mention the entire human and animal population as flooding began. 2. Strong currents or not, one year under water (even freshwater that wasn't boiling) would kill every terrestrial plant. 3. A dove finding a floating branch would then not have told Noah anything about the nature of dry land. Better not to bother giving any of these pseudo-answers and just say it was a miracle in every way. –  A L Apr 18 '13 at 16:58
    
How do you explain clonal colonies with common roots like this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pando_(tree) –  Gregory Magarshak Feb 5 at 15:31
    
And how do you explain that these trees didn't die: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… –  Gregory Magarshak Feb 5 at 15:31
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