If you’re searching for your next vacation destination, you may want to consider somewhere with plenty of Eucalyptus trees. Not only are these trees interesting to look at, but a group of Australian researchers say that those which have deep roots may actually have gold in their leaves. Acting like a straw, these roots gather gold from deep within the ground; gold which eventually ends up in the tree’s leaves.
Although we may not have known about it, various groups of researchers have debated whether or not gold existed in the leaves of Eucalyptus trees for a while. Since the trees’ roots go so far deep into the ground (more than 130 feet), it seemed obvious to the Australian researchers that gold would be present in the leaves. However, other research groups wanted to confirm whether the gold found in the leaves got there from an outside source (such as the wind) or were truly ingested by the tree itself. Before you get too excited, we’re talking about microscopic amounts of gold. You won’t find little gold nuggets growing on Eucalyptus trees anytime soon.
How do you begin to prove how the gold in the Eucalyptus tree leaves got there, though? You go where the miners are! The researchers compared leaves from Eucalyptus trees near a gold mining site in Western Australia with those that grew over 2,600 feet away. The group also conducted a synthetic experiment. They grew their own trees in a greenhouse; one group of trees was grown in soil containing gold particles, while the other group’s soil was gold free.
As mentioned earlier, gold was most certainly found in the Eucalyptus trees’ leaves, but let’s get a little more detailed than that. The researchers discovered that the typical amount of gold found in a single leaf was about eight micrometers wide. To give you some perspective, one micrometer is equivalent to almost four inches. After looking at about 20 leaves, the team concluded that the gold was coming from the root system. The natural reason why the gold travels all the way to the leaves is that gold is most likely toxic to the tree, so it moves the substance to its extremities. Although this is no doubt an exciting discovery, no one is going to get rich quick off of Eucalyptus tree leaves. Only about 0.000005 percent of a single leaf was made of gold.
This study will be most useful to gold miners. The leaves of the Eucalyptus trees are almost like clues to where more gold can be found underground. Drilling projects that cast a broad net may miss the areas where small Eucalyptus trees grow; small plants that may give some miners a big payday.