I came across a story on Facebook about David Latimer, who put spiderwort plants into a bottle garden ("terrarium") in 1960, watered it in 1972, and then sealed the bung. The plants have been living, thriving even, in their own ecosystem since.
The story was reported in the Daily Mail.
Thriving since 1960, my garden in a bottle: Seedling sealed in its own ecosystem and watered just once in 53 years
David Latimer first planted his bottle garden in 1960 and last watered it in 1972 before tightly sealing it shut 'as an experiment'
The hardy spiderworts plant inside has grown to fill the 10-gallon container by surviving entirely on recycled air, nutrients and water
Here it is again in The Times. There are a few more places this article can be found in various forms on the web.
I find myself extremely skeptical of this notion, however. I'm no zoologist or expert in plant sciences, but I am an engineer and the principle of energy conservation in a closed system already doesn't sit well here in my mind. Also, the article being mostly on websites such as The Daily Mail (the only exception being The Times), most of which have a reputation for posting spoof / exaggerated articles already makes me even more skeptical. I also noticed that most of the articles I found, including the mention on Facebook, state that this plant has been growing for different time periods. Some say 50 years, some 53. The Facebook one says it's been growing for 40 years. This kind of inconsistency also brings up red flags in my book.
Lastly, my brother is doing his Masters degree in Plant Sciences and he had the following to say in a nutshell (paraphrased from a phone conversation):
This is pure BS. That bottle would have very little CO2 in it. In order for that plant to grow like that it would need to have thousands times time CO2. Even if you were to open the bottle from time to time, it's not a matter of fresh air, it's a matter of the amount of molecules available in the bottle. Because it's a 'nearly' isolated system, the amount of nutrients and water that is able to circulate would limit the growth at some point, regardless of how much sun it gets. In any case, random fungi and plant sicknesses would grow faster in there and cause everything to rot and die before it got the chance to get anywhere near that kind of growth. It happens all the time in my greenhouses.
So I ask is this article accurate? Is my brother with his Master's degree (whom I'm inclined to believe) right that it is impossible?