Did you know that the leaves from the eucalyptus tree are thought to contain microscopic gold particles? Australian scientists have discovered that eucalyptus trees from Western Australia’s golden fields absorb small particles of gold with their roots. The gold then travels to the plant tissues of the tree’s buds and leaves. Even the shed leaves still contain trace amounts of this precious metal.
The first evidence that gold really “grows on trees” is provided by a study published in Nature Communications. The eucalyptus works like a hydraulic pump – its roots reach tens of meters into the ground. By osmosis the soil-water containing gold is transferred to the leaves. When the leaves fall the gold returns to the soil, creating a cycle, says Dr. Mel Lintern, a Geochemist from CSIRO.
This discovery probably won’t unleash the old familiar gold rush, so don’t get your gold pan out yet. These nuggets have a diameter of only a fifth of a human hair and are invisible to the human eye. Nevertheless, it could be a great opportunity to find new mineral deposits. The leaves and soil could indicate deposits of gold ore hidden up to tens of meters underground and under sediments up to 60 million years old. The eucalyptus has an extremely robust root system – one of the longest. Its roots penetrate to a depth of over 40 meters, enabling it to reach places rich in gold, which are located 35 to 40 meters underground.
The question now is whether trees in Europe have the same ability to receive and store gold and other highly valued metals through roots. No study has been done on this subject here yet. However, we already know that trees like oak have a root system about the same length as eucalyptus.
These facts help us appreciate trees and the delicate cycles in nature needed to preserve a healthy environment.