While money doesn’t grow on trees per se, we’ve found that precious gold does.
Our scientists have revealed that gum trees from the Western Australian goldfields draw up tiny particles of gold via their roots and it ends up in their leaves and branches.
The study published in Nature Communications today provides the first evidence of gold growing in trees.
“The eucalypt acts as a hydraulic pump – its roots extend tens of metres into the ground and draw up water containing the gold. 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,” CSIRO geochemist, Dr Mel Lintern says.
Prospectors be warned – the discovery is unlikely to start an old-time gold rush – the ‘nuggets’ are just one-fifth the diameter of a human hair and invisible to the eye.
Yet, it could provide a golden opportunity for mineral exploration, as the leaves or soil underneath the trees where they have fallen could indicate gold ore deposits buried up to tens of metres underground and under sediments that are up to 60 million years old.
“The leaves could be used in combination with other tools to get an idea of what’s happening below the surface without the need to drill. It could enhance gold exploration in a way that’s more targeted and environmentally friendly,” says Dr Lintern.
The research team used the powerful x-ray elemental imaging equipment at the Australian Synchrotron to locate and see the gold in the leaves.
Read more on our media page.
Media: Emily Lehmann, P: +61 419 271 822, Emily.Lehmann@csiro.au