For the first time, scientists have found gold naturally incorporated into a living organism. Published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) have confirmed that particles one-fifth the diameter of a human hair have been discovered in the leaves and branches of eucalyptus trees.

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During the search for water, the gold finds its way into the eucalyptus from the soil via its root system. Since the gold can be toxic to the plant, scientists hypothesize that the tree moves the metal into its leaves and branches in order to sequester and expel the material. The gold cannot be seen with the naked eye but can be detected with the help of special x-ray technology.

The eucalyptus trees themselves are unlikely to incite a gold rush. Research leader Mel Lintern told the Brisbane Times that even if 500 trees grew over a gold deposit, they would only produce enough metal to fashion a small wedding ring. However, the presence of the element could help drillers detect seams of gold without having to cut into the earth.

According to the Daily Mail, discoveries of gold deposits have halved in the last decade, and the quality of the metal has decreased. Planting eucalyptus trees could be a more environmentally-friendly and cost-effective way to search for gold hundreds of meters below the surface.


Via the Daily Mail

Images via Wikicommons users John Moss, Ken Sarkies, and CSIRO