Scientists Discover Gold Literally Growing On Trees In Australia

Scientists Discover Gold Literally Growing on Trees in the Outback

Every parent's favourite line about how money doesn't grow on trees just became a little more irrelevant, thanks to a fascinating find down under. Researchers in Australia recently found gold -- yes, real gold -- in eucalyptus trees growing in the outback.

A team of unlikely prospectors recently ventured into the arid land of the Goldfields-Esperance region in Western Australia, hoping to learn more about what was underneath its soil. The area earned its name for being rich in gold deposits -- that were, however, notoriously difficult to find. So the researchers looked in an unlikely place: The trees.

Eucalyptus trees in this region are known for their resiliency, and for roots that reach impossibly deep to find the groundwater needed to keep themselves alive. It just so turns out that the elusive gold deposits are down there, too.

Chasing a longstanding rumour that the trees' leaves get their gold luster from the deposits, the scientists analysed the leaves of eucalyptus trees in the area -- and sure enough, they found traces of gold. Apparently, the trees' roots grew 10 stories deep into the soil and absorbed gold particles from nearby deposits. To confirm that these particles came from the soil under the roots, they grew eucalyptus trees in gold-laced potting soil in a greenhouse. And sure enough -- they found gold in those leaves, too.

The idea that plants absorb minerals from the soil around them is hardly new, but this is an extraordinary case. "Gold is probably toxic to plants and is moved to its extremities (such as leaves) or in preferential zones within cells in order to reduce deleterious biochemical reaction," reads a study about the research published today in Nature Communications. The authors also point out that this is "the first evidence of particulate gold within natural specimens of living biological tissue." That's a hell of a first, even for you alchemy nerds out there.

Don't go thinking you can get rich by cutting down eucalyptus trees, though. Each tree contains such a small amount of gold -- 46 parts per billion, to be exact -- that it would take hundreds to compile enough for a wedding ring. But the trees could be used to scout the location of underground gold deposits. And since approximately 30 per cent of the world's gold reserves are thought to lie underground in the Goldfields-Esperance region, the search may be well worth the trouble. [Nature via Real Clear Science]

Scientists Discover Gold Literally Growing on Trees in the Outback

Image by Mel Lintern

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Comments

    So in theory, any Koalas that eat these gum leaves will have gold in their fecal matter!

    Keep your golden egg laying goose...we've got gold crapping koalas in Oz!

      So in theory, any Koalas that eat these gum leaves will have gold in their fecal matter! Keep your golden egg laying goose...we've got gold crapping koalas in Oz !

      That sir or madam was pure gold.... gave me a proper belly laugh.

      Last edited 24/10/13 6:24 pm

    It's not so much that the gold is growing on/in the trees.. just that it's been absorbed by them. I saw something on ABC last night, and they said you'd need 500 trees (roots and all) to get enough gold for a typical wedding ring!

    Last edited 24/10/13 8:24 am

      it's not about getting gold directly from the trees. It's about reducing the costs of finding the gold in the first place. Getting samples from trees are a lot cheaper than digging deep holes and doing other types of survey work.

    They'll still cut the trees down to dig the gold up!

    i wonder if someone will experiment with increasing how much gold can be extracted using this process... like i dunno... genetically modified gold mining eucalyptus trees. hahaha

      Reminds me of the Tiberium trees, just don't get too close.....

    Minecraft, yo.

    not a single mention of the Ducky mountains High episode from Ducktales.. i am dissappointed

    Hate to get political here but lets make sure we put a gold mining tax before we let them take it and get rich off the land.

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