Australian scientists have found that gold really does grow on trees, proving parents wrong in their usual retort to demands from children.
A CSIRO research team used X-ray imaging to detect gold in leaves of eucalyptus trees whose roots pumped the particles from deep deposits.
But the findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, are unlikely to start a new gold rush.
The “nuggets” are about one-fifth the diameter of a human hair, geochemist Mel Lintern said.
However, it could be a new and cheap way of mineral exploration.
“The leaves or soil underneath the trees could indicate gold ore deposits buried up to tens of metres underground and under sediments that are up to 60 million years old,” Dr Lintern said.
“By sampling and analysing vegetation for traces of minerals, we may get an idea of what’s happening below the surface without the need to drill.
“It’s a more targeted way of searching for minerals that reduces costs and impact on the environment.
“Eucalyptus trees are so common that this technique could be widely applied across Australia. It could also be used to find other metals such as zinc and copper.”