With the holiday bills pouring in, many of us would relish a reality where money grew on trees. Though it doesn’t “grow”, per se, researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have found that gold is deposited in the leaves and branches of Australian eucalyptus trees.
Sound like the stuff of dreams? Try geochemistry. Turns out the roots of these trees reach deep into the ground – tens of meters deep, to be exact. Since the water in the Kalgoorlie region of Western Australia contains traces of gold, trees looking to quench their thirst inadvertently suck up metal particles. Nice bonus, right? Apparently not. As trees have no use for bling (it might even be toxic to them), the gold is relegated to branches and eventually leaves so that it can be cast-off.
Sure, it’s probably not worth our while to collect these leaves for their gold, but there could be a benefit to this discovery. By x-raying leaves useful metals, including copper and zinc, researchers may have discovered a more environmentally friendly method to find mineral deposits. Regardless, the thought of unwanted gold being discarded by trees must trigger a bit of mental anguish in some people. What would you do with gold falling from trees?