Real Research, Real Simple

Natural Treasure Trove – Trees that store gold

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.

A money tree

Money Tree (photo by Adrian Makarov on Flickr)

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?

About the author

Melissa Carmen Cheung, PhD

Passionate about sharing science with the public in a fun and accessible way, Melissa is a Medical Communications professional who earned her Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Toronto. Though her research focused on the design of novel cancer therapeutics, Melissa is intrigued by all facets of science. Her goal in life is to captivate people with the same excitement she feels for science.