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Eucalyptus trees

Eucalyptus trees actually 'mine' gold and deposit it in their leaves

Thursday, November 07, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: eucalyptus trees, gold mining, mineral deposits

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(NaturalNews) Gone may be the days of having to dig and dredge the earth in search of gold, thanks to a recent discovery by researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia. They found that the common eucalyptus tree, which grows extensively throughout Australia and in many other parts of the world, literally mines gold out of the ground via its extensive root system and deposits this precious metal in its branches and leaves.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the research that led to this amazing discovery helps bring clarity to an ongoing dispute among scientists of different persuasions as to where the gold previously observed in eucalyptus leaves actually comes from. Some believe that the wind is responsible for carrying and depositing it, while others have suspected that the trees themselves have some kind of special ability to tap underground ore reserves.

It turns out that the latter hypothesis is the correct one: eucalyptus trees grow extremely deep root systems that tap water sources mixed with gold and other minerals. And when the trees take in this water, they also take in the gold, which ends up being processed through the trunk, out the branches and into the leaves.

"The eucalypt acts as a hydraulic pump -- its roots extend tens of meters into the ground and draw up water containing the gold," explains Dr. Mel Lintern, a geochemist at CSIRO who helped work on the research. "As the gold is likely to be toxic to the plant, it's moved to the leaves and branches where it can be released or shed to the ground."

This is good news for gold mining industries, which have seen a roughly 45 percent decline in new gold discoveries over the past decade. Though eucalyptus trees are incapable of pulling up substantial quantities of gold -- the amount of gold detected in the leaves was about one-fifth the diameter of a human hair in size -- they could serve as a beneficial and environmentally friendly detection tool for miners.

"The leaves could be used in combination with other tools as a more cost effective and environmentally friendly detection technique," adds Dr. Lintern, as quoted by Science Daily. "By sampling and analyzing vegetation for traces of minerals, we may get an idea of what's happening below the surface without the need to drill. It's a more targeted way of searching for minerals that reduces costs and impact on the environment."

Many plants, crops take up minerals for human benefit

The implications of these findings for public health are also noteworthy, as the ability of eucalyptus trees to take up gold and other minerals from the ground highlights a much greater truth about plants in general. When planted in soils that are rich in trace minerals, many plants have a natural ability to absorb and process these minerals, rendering them bioavailable for humans upon consumption. Even in less-than-optimal conditions, some plants adapt and develop alternate "mining" techniques.

"Although plants are non-motile and often face nutrient shortages in their environment, they utilize a plethora of sophisticated mechanisms in an attempt to acquire sufficient amounts of the macro- and micronutrients required for proper growth, development and reproduction," explains an unrelated, but pertinent to this issue, study published in the journal Nature.

"These mechanisms include changes in the developmental program and root structure to better 'mine' the soil for limiting nutrients, induction of high affinity transport systems and the establishment of symbioses and associations that facilitate nutrient uptake."

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