Washington: Scientists have claimed that eucalyptus trees could potentially help in revealing buried treasure.
Many plants root deep into the Earth, drawing up nutrients and minerals they need for life.
Researchers hope this fact could one day help miners unearth gold, especially since discoveries of new deposits of the precious metal have dropped 45 percent over the last 10 years.
Scientists in Australia focused on eucalyptus trees, since traces of gold are sometimes found in soils surrounding these plants.
However, researchers were not certain until now whether trees could actually absorb the precious metal from underground deposits or if the wind simply blew gold dust there from other sites.
Now, one group has discovered the first evidence in nature of gold particles located within living tissue from trees.
Researchers investigated leaves, twigs and bark of eucalyptus trees up to 35 feet tall from two locations in Australia one in the west, another in the south.
Past exploratory drilling revealed these sites had gold buried underground, but the areas were undisturbed by further mining activity that might have contaminated the trees with gold dust.
X-ray analysis revealed gold particles up to about 8 microns wide in cells from the trees, or about 10 times thinner than the average human hair.
Field samples and greenhouse experiments suggest these gold particles which exist at concentrations not harmful to the trees are absorbed by the roots and transported to its extremities, such as leaves, where the highest concentrations were observed.
These findings suggest the trees could tap into gold deposits up to 115 feet below them while searching for water under drought conditions.
The findings are published online in the journal Nature Communications.