National Geographic News
Photo of a eucalyptus tree on Tasmanian Land Conservancy property.

Eucalyptus trees like the one pictured could point miners toward gold deposits.

Photograph by Bill Hatcher, National Geographic

Dan Vergano

National Geographic

Published October 22, 2013

There's gold in them thar trees. Eucalyptus trees, that is. Australian researchers have found that microscopic gold particles from underground ore deposits are present in tree leaves.

Eucalyptus tree roots can delve more than 130 feet (40 meters) deep underground in a thirsty search for water. (See "Koalas Climb a Eucalyptus Tree.")

The Nature Communications journal results, reported by a team led by Melvyn Lintern of Australia's CSIRO Earth Science and Resource Evaluation science agency, settle a long-running dispute. Researchers had disagreed over whether gold particles seen in eucalyptus leaves were merely wind-blown or truly represented ore traces transported by roots.

Why It Matters

With gold costing more than $1,300 an ounce, miners might want to look hard at these eucalyptus tree findings, the team suggests. Gold discoveries have declined roughly 45 percent over the last decade. (Related: "Will Deep-sea Mining Yield an Underwater Gold Rush?")

"Despite the decline in discoveries, falling ore grades and increasing demand for (gold), new exploration technologies for (gold) deposits, incorporating the deep penetrating ability of certain trees, have been seldom reported," the study says.

What They Did

The researchers compared eucalyptus tree leaves at gold prospecting sites in Western Australia with leaves from trees 2,625 feet (800 meters) away. They also grew eucalyptus trees in greenhouses with potting soil dosed with gold particles, as well as in normal potting soil without gold.

What They Found

Leaves preferentially stored microscopic gold particles about eight micrometers wide on average. Study authors speculate the particles came from underground, seemingly taken up by the root system of the trees. About 20 leaves needed to be sampled to statistically reveal the presence of gold underneath the trees.

"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," the authors conclude.

Don't start stuffing eucalyptus leaves in your wallet, however. The average concentration of gold in the leaves was only about 46 parts per billion, less than 0.000005 percent of each leaf by weight.

For would-be gold miners, however, eucalyptus trees might offer cheaper, and better, clues to gold deposits, especially smaller ones that wide-area drilling tests might overlook. "Mineral exploration will benefit by embracing and understanding" how leaves might reveal secrets hidden underground, the study authors conclude. (Related: "Gold 'Mining' Termites Found, May Lead Humans to Riches.")

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52 comments
craig hill
craig hill

If this leads to planting more eucalyptus, a wonderful tree, long-term than clearcutting it to get at the gold immediately, i'm enthusiastic for this news.

Hodor Hodor
Hodor Hodor

Why is every comment in this article totally retarded?

Prachi K.
Prachi K.

how can a tree grow gold? isn't  gold a mineral?

Jamie Jang
Jamie Jang

The study was likely funded by gold minors - at the least, a friend of the industry. Using the trees' data on land that THEY OWN, minors can determine where exactly to dig for gold. This will likely be less detrimental to the surrounding ecology than other forms of gold mining that would have taken place of this higher-efficiency way of mining gold. Those methods will likely occur after all the gold has been extracted via Eucalyptus detection. And it's sad. But it's also a lot of cash. And as Jeannie Combs says, "In this day & time we could all use a pot of Gold."

Jeannie Combs
Jeannie Combs

In this day & time we all could use a pot of Gold

Roz Bennetts
Roz Bennetts

Elemental gold or 'metal' gold? There's no reason that elemental gold (prior to the metal bonds forming) would be poisonous to plants and may even be nutritious. There are theories that the fruits and vegetables grown at volcanic sites grow so well because of the presence of trace minerals, gold among them in the topsoil. Elsewhere, so the theory goes, plants have to have very deep roots to be able to access soil deep enough where these minerals are still present and not farmed out of the soil.

Jismy Vakkachan
Jismy Vakkachan

This is good research as long as it does NOT cause more tree felling. Else if this means good by product recovery from eucalyptus oil harvests..it should be looked into in detail.

Tapas Mondal
Tapas Mondal

I appreciate  researcher for this finding but will this allow us to grow more tree or after effect of this discovery cutting down eucalyptus . If it is working for the nature then it is helpful if otherwise  hiding the fact from mass is important.

Bridget Cameron
Bridget Cameron

I think many get 'gold fever' and it is very destructive to the planet. We can make all sorts of synthetic gold products that look exactly like the real thing. What is it, with our need for gold, when there is so little of it left?  No doubt, people will use the trees to help locate gold deposits, yet it is not good if ancient gum trees roots are destroyed as part of the mining of this gold, with the resultant death of gum trees. As that would then be only fools gold.  Most of Australia's native forests have been cleared with only between 4-8% left in just over 200 years of European settlement. Many gum trees have black spot, a fungal disease that is killing many of them. Let's invest instead into funding research grants to find a cure for black spot!  Gum trees are gorgeous, let's preserve them while we can!

Cosys-control Rodlolph
Cosys-control Rodlolph

So these tree leaves could rerveal more secrets hidden by underground golden mine. therefore, this would cut off more exploring cost.

Eric Kent
Eric Kent

Didnt you all read the article? it said the trees could be used to point the way to where there are good gold deposits it said nothing about actually removing the gold from the trees as the amounts in the trees are so small it would not be worthwhile .BUT the trees could show where there are good gold deposits . Please go back and read the article before making extremely ignorant remarks it is embarasing  to see grown people make comments that make them look illiterate.

J. Say
J. Say

So what if there's gold beneath them? Leave those trees alone! They're far more valuable than any lustrous rock deep below the ground!!

M. Gianni
M. Gianni

The man also has gold in his body, with this I do not think about the deforestation that may occur or take leaves .. sometimes the findings are to evil of mankind.

Mark Gare
Mark Gare

The medicinal value of the Eucalyptus leaver far out way the trace of gold 

anton tornquist
anton tornquist

I'm a gonna' go cut me down a bunch of eucalyptus trees for a couple grams o' gold. eeeeeeeahawwwww

anton tornquist
anton tornquist

I'm gonna' go cut me a whole buncha trees down for a couple grams of GOLD!!!! eeeeeeehaawwwww. DUMB PEOPLE

Jimmie F.
Jimmie F.

Please the poor trees alone 

El Gabilon
El Gabilon

Here we go again! "Gold is PROBABLY toxix to trees...."! If trees are picking up gold through their roots there may be some other reason for this. This process might aide the tree in some way. The article does not say whether or not the gold in the leaves shines or flashes in the wind.   It might be a way for the tree to keep predators away. If the authors do not know why the trees are doing this then they should say so and not speculate.  That is not science. Therefore what some scientists say should be taken with a grain of salt because a lot of science is speculation, not proven etc. For some it is more important to publish an article than to look for the truth.

Taher K. Attarwala
Taher K. Attarwala

Medicinal value of such trees prove more worth than gold, for human use.

Lewis L
Lewis L

I always knew Koalas were evil little hoarders

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0100000101100001011100100110111101101110 010010100

0101011101100101011011000110110000100000011101000110100001100001011101000010000001110111011000010111001100100000011010010110111001110100011001010111001001100101011100110111010001101001011011100110011100101110

Roger Bird
Roger Bird

And not just gold, but, also perhaps other minerals.

Vr Bimbos
Vr Bimbos

magtanum mog eucalyphtos tree e pa test ang dahun if naay gold if positive ,..naa sa yuta.

孟 阔
孟 阔

如果发展旅游业,这可能是个很好的噱头,来到这的人们带着一片"金叶子",好好保护回到家里,他们认为金叶子会给他们带来好运.但是,如果人们过度摘这棵树的叶子,那么这棵树必定招到破坏,但是这棵树没在中国,所以不会有那么多的人去破坏它了.

Warren Karlenzig
Warren Karlenzig

Sierra mountain residents tell of heritage oak trees near creeks in California foothills that have root balls harboring gold nuggets. They are revealed after they topple during storms or floods.

J. Lowman
J. Lowman

This acknowledgement will send all the gold diggers to dig up these magnificent trees...I hope they are protected and I wish that some secrets would be kept...secret. Just think how long we could enjoy a special find that makes the world a better place if we just kept it to ourselves...

craig hill
craig hill

@Hodor Hodor It's the curse of the internet. Anyone who can type can display his imbecility, and does.

D Ash
D Ash

@David Wu  Very excellent post!  Now, please translate to ancient Urdu for the rest of us.

D Ash
D Ash

@Jamie Jang   Minors are young people under the age of 18 years.  The word you wished to use is miners, denoting those who search for precious minerals and metal ores.

Sadie D.
Sadie D.

@Tapas Mondal i was thinking the same thing....wouldn't it just produce a frenzy that could harm the tree and the surrounding area?

Peter Mejia
Peter Mejia

@Eric Kent Would the mining of these minerals destroy the tree's roots? I am just a high school student and am not trying to argue or prove a point, but am instead trying to see the facts.

Ravi Sreedhar
Ravi Sreedhar

@M. Gianni deforestation for extracting gold from leaves?? 45 parts perbillion is not economically advisable to cut down a tree for so less a gold... leaves are already taken to extract oil.... the only deforestation you have to worry about is when they find the motherload(ore deposit site) 

Jamie Jang
Jamie Jang

@Mark Gare 

I don't think it's the leaves that would be of direct value. The value lies in the fact that if leaves contain what the roots have found, then perhaps that tree is at the end of a rainbow.

Eric Kent
Eric Kent

@anton tornquist No you are the dumb one it never says anything about cutting any trees down for the gold that might be in them. It says the trees might be used to show where there are gold deposits underground.

Roger Bird
Roger Bird

@El Gabilon   I also had problems with the "gold is probably toxic to trees" bit.  I have consumed many gallons of colloidal gold and so has my family.  Absolutely, positively nothing happened, good or bad.  Gold is about as inert as a metal can get.

Roger Bird
Roger Bird

@J. Lowman   This assumes that gold mining companies are stupid.  It's the leaves, and there is far too little even in the leave to be worth the effort.

James R.
James R.

@D Ash 

Oh just grow up.  Surely even an ignoramus like you can copy/paste some Chinese text into Google Translate?

craig hill
craig hill

@D Ash @Jamie Jang And here i thought i was learning minors are not so dumb after all, brilliantly funding studies to increase profit by increasing the value of the land they own, specifically with a lot of eucalyptus growing on it. Nefarious!

Maggie Clogston
Maggie Clogston

@Peter Mejia @Eric Kent I'm not sure, but I would assume it would be difficult to work around them, and that miners don't really care that much. They need the gold as efficiently as possible, which is a pity as any sort of mining is destructive.

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