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Nature Neato

Gold

Yesterday, I learned that Eucalyptus trees sometimes have gold – real gold – in their leaves.

Eucalyptus tree roots grow extremely deep. At times, they grow deep enough to encounter water sources that contain gold. When the trees draw the water up, the gold, in minuscule measurements, comes with it.

Gold is toxic to the Eucalyptus, however. Therefore, the trees don’t retain it. Instead, they move it through their roots, up into their branches and out to their leaves, where it can be naturally discarded.

Nobody’s going to get rich by collecting these Eucalyptus leaves. The amount of gold contained in them is tiny (one estimate I read said that it would take all the leaves from 500 trees to get enough gold for one small ring). Analyzing the leaves, however, makes it possible to find underground gold deposits without exploratory drilling and excavation, which minimizes damage to the environment. And, the process used to analyze the Eucalyptus leaves can be applied in other circumstances, with other trees, to potentially discover additional minerals deep within the ground. From a purely practical perspective, that’s what makes this discovery meaningful.

Setting practicality aside, however, it’s fun to imagine golden trees. It’s the stuff of fairy tales and fantasy. It’s a reminder that the magical stories we humans invent sometimes pale in comparison to what happens quietly, without fanfare, in Mother Nature’s everyday life.

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