“Money doesn’t grow on trees” … or so the saying goes.
But scientists from Australia’s peak research body the CSIRO have found that’s not quite the case.
They’ve found that eucalyptus trees in the Kalgoorlie region of Western Australia are drawing up gold particles from the earth via their root system and depositing them in their leaves and branches.
“We found these gum trees bringing up gold, some of them from an extraordinary 30m depth, 10 storeys high equivalent, up to the surface,” CSIRO geochemist Dr Mel Lintern told Radio Australia.
The research team used the CSIRO’s Maia detector for x-ray elemental imaging at the Australian Synchrotron, which was able to produce images depicting the gold – otherwise untraceable.
“Where this research is new is that we’ve found physical evidence for the gold particles within the leaves themselves. This has never been found before in nature”, Dr Lintern said.
An old-fashioned gold rush is unlikely: the traces of gold are tiny – about one-fifth the diameter of a human hair.
But Dr Lintern says the leaves could be used in combination with other tools as a more cost effective and environmentally friendly exploration technique, without the need to drill.
“As the prospectors used the panning dish, we’re using the trees as an indicator, and that might give us an indication of where we might want to drill and look for gold beneath.”
The findings will be released in the journal “Nature Communications” today.