Gold Growing On Trees? Scientists Discover Deposits In Australia Gum Leaves

koala closeup of head
koala closeup of head

Money doesn't grow on trees, but gold certainly appears to, according to Aussie scientists who have confirmed that gold is found in the leaves of some plants.

Australian geochemists have published a landmark paper showing how trees act "as a hydraulic pump ... drawing up water containing the gold."

But before you sack in your job and book your plane ticket to Australia, bear in mind the particles of gold in the trees are tiny - about one-fifth the diameter of a human hair - and invisible to the human eye.

Eucalyptus in the Kalgoorlie region of Western Australia and the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia are drawing up water containing gold particles from the earth via their roots and depositing it in their leaves and branches, the scientists proved.

"We've done a calculation, and found that we need 500 trees growing over a gold deposit to have enough gold in the trees themselves to make a gold ring," one of the authors of the paper, geochemist Dr Mel Lintern, said, the BBC reported.

The scientists, from Australia's national science agency - the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), published their findings in the scientific journal Nature Communications this week, revealed.

"As the gold is likely to be toxic to the plant, it is moved to the leaves and branches where it can be released or shed to the ground," said Dr Lintern.

The scientists have known from their laboratory experiments that trees have the ability to absorb gold but this is the first time they have proved that it is actually happening in nature.

Despite the size of the particles, the CSIRO said the discovery could offer an opportunity for hopeful gold diggers, as the presence of gold at the surface could indicate gold ore deposits buried tens of metres underground.